UNICEF, assisting the Government of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Education in education reform, has been exerting efforts to increase the quality of education through enhancing early childhood development, encouraging active learning methodologies and creation of parent/teacher associations and encapsulating children’s rights issues into school curriculum.
Throughout the cooperation period, several baseline studies and surveys have been conducted to establish a database and also to fill in the existing gaps in data. Several assessments have also been done in order to evaluate the impact of the interventions and direct future actions.
In Azerbaijan, our current priorities are to:
- Support the implementation of an active learning national policy in the focus districts to ensure that all primary-school students are educated in “child-friendly” schools and will provide a model for inclusive, quality education.
Our main partners are: the Ministries of Education, Health, Labour and Social Protection, Internal Affairs, Youth, Sport and Tourism, UN World Food Program, State Statistics Committee, in-service and pre-service teacher training institutions, district education authorities, education research institutions, Inkishaf Research Center, UMID Humanitarian and Social Support Centre, YUVA Humanitarian Centre, Madad and Reliable Future
Action on Early Childhood Development: UNICEF’s approach to early childhood seeks to give all children the best start in life – so that they survive and thrive. Helping families ensure that their children survive and reach school age healthy and well nourished, intellectually curious, socially confident and equipped with a solid foundation for lifelong learning is at the heart of UNICEF’s mission.
UNICEF’s programme for Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) emphasises action at three levels:
- Providing quality basic services and essential commodities. This includes services related to child and maternal health, nutrition, water and sanitation, psychosocial care and early learning, and child protection. Every attempt is made to coordinate the planning, delivery and monitoring of these services.
The IECD programme in Azerbaijan was mainly focused in the following areas:
- Data collection/Baseline Data and Situation analysis
UNICEF established 34 Child Development Centres (CDCs) bringing early childhood care and development opportunities to 2,600, 3-6 year old IDP/refugee children, 260 care providers and over 3,000 parents in 14 districts of Azerbaijan. The provisioning of toys, education materials and equipment and the roofing of playgrounds in these CDCs helped to provide young IDP/refugee children with essential development/recreation opportunities.
Within its Better Parenting Initiatives (BPI) and parental involvement in the Early Childhood Development (IECD) project in three state kindergartens, UNICEF aims to increase knowledge, skills, and awareness among parents on child care and development issues and on the importance of supporting children's education, as well as improving the knowledge and skills of care providers and parents on the ECD and BPI projects.
Since 2003 the process of the development of a national policy on Integrated Early Childhood Care and Development (IECCD) has started. Discussions initiated for identification of the national priorities in IECCD, development of a common understanding of IECCD in the country, identification of available resources and building partnerships in this field. Several workshops were conducted for policymakers and specialists in the fields of education, health, nutrition, social protection and media.
Action on Education: UNICEF supported the government in its education reform programme, through the MOP, by initiating the Active Learning and School Leadership Project (ALSLP) to directly pilot new teaching and learning approaches. The project was started in 2000 and aimed to upgrade and strengthen the knowledge and skills of educators at all levels related to innovations in instructional practice and school leadership and management for the purpose of creating active and effective schools.
An external evaluation of the ALSLP revealed the expansion of the use of active methods schools as a key strategy to improve the quality of education. The pilot schools where new methods were used initially experienced an increased enrolment; one school recorded a difference of 25%, showing the interest of parents towards new initiatives. Classrooms in pilot schools are more child-friendly. The main difference between teachers trained in AL methods and those who are not is the approach to individual difference within a class, the motivation to support full participation from all children, and to encourage more interaction. Classroom interaction in pilot schools is horizontal as well as vertical i.e. good interaction between children (horizontal) as well interaction between teacher and child (vertical).
In November 2004 a conference was held to develop national policy on interactive/active learning methods. A network for strengthening implementation was created, and coordination between the Education Reform and AL projects was strengthened to ensure that AL practice is expanded to cover Azerbaijan. The AL policy document was adopted by MoE at the beginning of the year.
The ALSLP included two important additional components; a Parent-Teacher Association component and a peer education component. Both of these have proved to be important and successful initiatives which compliment ALSLP and provide key strategies for increasing the participation of parents and young people.
Creation of PTAs has been an important step to promote the welfare of the children and youth by encouraging parent and public involvement in the school, to support better education and safer schools for every child. UNICEF’s experience revealed that parental involvement and interest in the students’ education has a positive influence on the learning achievement of the child as well as the involvement of children so that tripartite partnership can be developed between school management/teachers, parents and students.
UNICEF is committed to support the application of this initiative at the national level within the CFS framework.
Peer education, although not specifically part of the AL project, as one of UNICEF’s adolescent participation strategies, was noted as an important innovation to support increased participation of children and young people. Girls presented a particularly strong voice in the peer education groups and took on leadership roles.