Tirana : European Capital of Youth 2022 aims to empower the future of education in Albania.

Even as far back as 2017 UNICEF were celebrating the successes of a developing Albanian education system. “What is of importance for the country to celebrate is that not only Albanian children do better in academic achievement, but that the Albanian schools are preparing citizens who have values and commitment. PISA results show that Albanian children’s sense of community belonging and wellbeing is very high, ranking third after Spain and Austria among all participating countries. Bold reforms and innovative initiatives such as the ones on Schools as Community Centers are already providing their fruits.” 

“This is a strong indicator that Albanian schools are on the right track to provide a solid education to all children, regardless of their economic backgrounds. Education is a fundamental human right. It is critical for long-term economic growth and crucial for the achievement of all the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4, on inclusive quality education.” said Dr. Ezio Gianni Murzi, UNICEF Representative in Albania. “We are proud today that many of the bold reforms of the Ministry of Education and Youth which UNICEF and partners have supported in curriculum development, improving preschool quality, teacher training and qualification are working”- said Dr. Ezio Gianni Murzi, UNICEF Representative in Albania. 

A lot has happened to affect education since 2017 but whereas the pandemic caused challenges and long term headaches for traditional education systems, it also allowed developing systems, such as Albania to embrace new technology and speed up the reforms that were already planned – indeed online learning platforms were being introduced from 2018 and the best teachers in Albania were putting many of their lessons online – to date over 17000 are available and the systems that Albania developed have been successfully exported to other countries within the Balkan peninsula.

The Albanian Ministry of Education and Youth are also at the forefront of the development of Higher education and University reform. As with all countries, the need for internationally recognised Universities is a priority for the development of skills, quality assurance and research. As a result, qualifications of common standards tend to become competitive because of the European vision that Albania has.

Emerging from the global pandemic and returning to the classroom has challenges. In some countries student apathy has become an issue which is being tackled by financial incentives and active marketing campaigns. Albania has taken a slightly different approach – through student empowerment and by embracing the European capital of Youth initiative.

The European Youth Capital is awarded by the European Youth Forum, which aims to empower young people, boost their participation and strengthen European identity. 

To find out more about Albania’s role as host of European Capital of Youth 2022, and how to inspire the next generation of leaders while retaining a strong cultural heritage, we interviewed H.E.Donika Hoxha – Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova.

Dr Donika Hoxha has been the Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the Republic of Bulgaria since October 2018 and the Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova since October 2019, although she began her professional career in 1998 at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport of the Republic of Albania.

What motivates you to represent your country abroad and what is the message you want to spread through your work?

Being a diplomat and representing your own country is not merely a profession. You have to love your country, what it has been at different times in its history, and begin your duty by knowing what best serves its interests and then seek to achieve an outcome as close to those requirements as possible. For this, you need to invest time, energy and effort in your own professional development. 

One of the aims of the European Capital of Youth is to empower the next generation – how do you do that?

The most important qualities of a good leader have always been strategic and critical thinking, innovation and action. As we move farther into 2022, after being faced with the biggest challenge of the century, the COVID pandemic, I believe that the best leaders continue to be those who inspire, motivate and empower their team. I would like to quote Steve Jobs “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

To be an effective leader you’ll also need to be a good listener and communicator. Among the skills we need to improve are transparency and good communication, to ensure that everyone has the right information no matter where they work and to get motivated to be engaged. Accountability is yet another important matter which factors into success. Leaders must hold themselves accountable to do the necessary work to fulfil their promises.

A good leader needs to have the resilience to push himself/herself over, through, around, and sometimes under obstacles. True motivation only appears by overcoming difficulties.

How do new leaders rise and how we could support and develop new leaders among the young generation?

Most leaders throughout history have emerged out of the needs of the situation, arising from the dynamics and processes that unfold within and among a group of individuals as they endeavour to achieve a collective goal. As different situations call for different configurations of knowledge, skills, and abilities, the group turns to the members who mostly display drive, self-confidence, knowledge of the situation, honesty, and integrity. It is not difficult to spot them as they are able to exert considerable influence and provide direction while driven by a vision embraced by the entire group.

Talented up-and-coming new leaders among the young generation need challenging assignments that stretch them to new heights. We need to believe in them, encourage and support their aspirations. We need to produce more leaders rather than more followers, which is fundamental to long term success. To do that we need to support leadership development initiatives among the youngest generation, empowering them to make decisions that support the goals and vision of the community.

Is that why Tirana becoming the European Youth Capital is so important?

We need to create the conditions for our young people not to flee our countries and develop their talents. This would give long-term competitive advantages to our countries, especially considering our current situation of brain drain. Leaders exist at all levels. We have to identify the ones who can step in and fill critical roles when necessary. This should be our mission. As I said above, we must be held accountable for developing other leaders

What can be done in order young people to be involved and engaged in Cultural Heritage, to safeguard and use these values?

There is a risk that certain elements of intangible cultural heritage could die out or disappear without help, but how can we safeguard and manage a heritage that is constantly changing and part of ‘living culture’ without freezing or trivialising it? Safeguarding them is about the transferring of knowledge, skills and meaning. Hence, first and foremost, a good knowledge by the young generation of the values of culture as a symbol of the identity of a country is significantly needed. Unfortunately, there is still a quite distant relationship between the young generation and art history and education and one of the main challenges in safeguarding intangible heritage is the loss of interest and enthusiasm to practise by the young generation.

We need to cultivate young people’s interest and nurture their curiosity. More efforts and concrete actions are needed to integrate local knowledge in formal education curricula. However, that is not enough if they are not encouraged to go out and experience..

When transmitted from generation to generation, intangible heritage is continuously created and recreated. It is exactly recreation that we have to encourage. A substantial engagement of young professionals in spreading the importance of active participation of local communities to protect and safeguard the cultural activities needs to be encouraged. On the other hand, governments, international organisations and NGOs have an important role in supporting projects and initiatives to this end and of course, Tirana being the European Youth Capital 2022 will assist this!

Many thanks


Add in a program of events for European Youth Capital 2022

Intersperse with photos of cultural activity, and sights

Photo of Dr Dr Donika Hoxha at beginning