From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Schools in Crisis due to Depopulation, PM to Lobby EU for University Recognition

As Albanian children went back to school on Monday, Prime Minister Edi Rama said he would start lobbying the European Union to include and recognise the Albanian university system.

During his speech at the National Congress of Education, Rama said lobbying will be carried out as the country now enjoys a better status as negotiations have opened.

“The internationalisation of our entire university system is a necessity. We hope that through political lobbying with the European Union and the European Commission, taking advantage of our new position as a negotiating country, together with other Western Balkan countries, to convince the EU to include the countries’ university system in the European university system,” he said.

He continued that 41 agreements with prestigious international universities help students benefit from foreign education in Albania.

Rama also said that the Albanian language is under threat, and there should be more effort in teaching it, even outside the country’s borders.

“We will do our best to extend it to other countries, not only Albania and Kosovo. North Macedonia has already approved in principle its introduction in all classes where the children of the Albanian people of North Macedonia learn the Albanian language; we have also started to discuss with Montenegro, with Serbia for all Albanians of the Presheva Valley and further,” said Rama.

But the number of students enrolling in first grade fell to 22,000 this year, down from 77,000 in 1994, due to a declining birthrate and mass emigration. But Minister of Education Evis Kushi said people are leaving because the population in the countries they are going to is ageing.

“Besides the global crisis, we are facing another trend here in Albania, another challenge. A direction that the entire Balkan region is facing. Some young people leave the area for studies or employment, towards western countries such as Germany, but not only.

Countries which, being towards the ageing of the population, and having growing needs in the labour market, have opened their doors for our young people, especially for doctors, for nurses, but also for other professions of the time”, she emphasised, failing to comment on the tens of thousands of Albanians that seek asylum and leave the country illegally every year.

Meanwhile, depopulation is being felt throughout the country. In Korca, three schools closed in Bratomira, Homezh and Zalle Torre due to a lack of students.

An education expert, Majlinda Keta, said education is still facing 30-year-old issues and is a “disaster” for the country.

“It is unfortunate that after 30 years, we raise the same issues. Teachers in the first lesson should convey positivity and confidence to those children. We must do our best to educate them, to make them good, not to run away from the ways of the world, but to enjoy this country,” she said.

“We failed to give confidence to the Albanians that this country will get better and stay at those quality improvement rates. Today, the system has no great achievements,” she concluded.