Author: Llanos, M.
There is a general consensus in Azerbaijan about the importance of education, and it is an asset to have a country such as Azerbaijan with a high level of literacy. However, to move towards concepts of child-centered policies, children's rights, active learning, learning spaces, non-formal educational approaches, and family as educational agents, is something that will require effort, commitment, and time. In the past, "education" happened in institutions, and there had been a delegation from family to pre-schools and schools with very limited participation of the families. A total authority and trust was delegated to the teacher. Now, the proposal moves toward shared action and more partnerships with the family, community, and others, for the development of the child.
Purpose / Objective
The following report attempts to assess the current status of ECCD in Azerbaijan, provide technical support to capacity building efforts for the Early Childhood Care and Development programs supported by UNICEF, and carry out consultations for the development of communication strategies in this area.
- To review the current status of pre-school education
- To assess current "innovations" in this area
- To conduct training for ECCD core country team
- To conduct training for Media (journalists and TV personnel)
- To develop a communication strategy framework for ECCD
Review of policy documents related to EFA and others
Interviews with key persons from MOE and related ministries
Interviews with NGOs
Conduct ECCD Workshops
Key Findings and Conclusions
Access to pre-school services is still very limited and also facing difficulties. According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), in 1999, the total number of children between 1 to 6 years of age served in 1,814 pre-school centers was 112,280. This indicates only a 13.5% coverage of the overall population. For the year 2001, the coverage was 111,020 or 11.5%, and the number of pre-school centers was 1,790. Obviously, there is a decrease in the service despite the fact that the pre-schools from the enterprises were transferred to the MOE.
Pre-school services continue to be mainly for urban children. In the year 2001, there was a total of 1,010 pre-school centers in urban areas (55% of total) and 780 centers (45% of total) in rural areas. These figures are very interesting because they reflect the large number of pre-school buildings underused in rural areas - 72% of the children in pre-school are from urban areas, while only 28% of the total number of children come from rural areas. This data coincides with the results on MICS.
Looking at gender issues the current enrolment situation indicates that there is a greater improvement for the year 2001 over previous years, with figures of 57,140 boys and 53,880 girls, that is 51.5% to 48.5%. According to the EFA report in 1998, there were 48,774 boys and 40,752 girls enrolled; whereas in 1996, the gap was even bigger, 53,399 boys and 42,919 girls attended.
According to the data presented by MOE for 2001, within the overall education budget, 8.5% was assigned to pre-school education. In 1999, the same sources show that 9.5% was allocated for the same purpose. The explanation could be based on the fact that there are now a lower number of centers and children being served. However, it also reflects that there is still within the process, the need for a clearer analysis of rules and regulations that will allow for a modernization of the planning system.
It is very alarming that almost 70% of the current premises are in a poor state of maintenance and safety. Better information about the location and situation of pre-schools needs to be analyzed in order to plan a better use of current resources, buildings and personnel.
Currently, in a strategy for strengthening MOE capacity to take more active leadership, a Core Team for ECCD was created, whose main function will be to guide theoretically and operationally the efforts in ECCD. The newly formed Core Team contributed to the analysis of the ECCD current situation, pointing out the following issues:
- Children without attention, limited social, psychological environment for children, less attention to children's development, limited play
- Child problems are not given priority; more focus on adults dealing with children
- Caregivers and Methodologists are reluctant to go further into their roles and responsibilities
- Main worry feeding the child, limited nutritional status, lack of vitamins affects the condition for physical development
- Limited finances, limited production of materials, limited environment
- Need of indicators for quality. There is no statistical information.
- There is no network for ECCD. Basic information needed for communication.
- Realistic poverty versus other interests. Need for targeting vulnerable groups.
Pre-school education has also started efforts for solid linkages with the first grades of Primary Education. This is a very positive asset that will be reflected on the children's achievement. In most places, and also in the old tradition, each system remains separated. Now, each one provides a more harmonious approach towards child development and learning, and their partnership will impact both the child and the education system.
The Consultant appreciates that the personnel of ECCD are a very committed group of human beings who, guided with much care and knowledge, will rediscover their enormous potential. Then, their roles and their interaction with children will exceed current norms, policies and ways of caring for children to roles that will represent a growing possibility for both adults and children, and will add the perspective of being mobilizers for parent and community participation.
It is crucial to have reliable data for planning. For country and local planning, the current data is minimum and there are differences, according to the sources. The construction of basic information for planning will give the Task Force new elements for discussion. It is recommended that under a leadership of a person with experience in situation analysis, this area of information for planning will be improved.
Definitions of membership and responsibilities for the Task Force and the Core Team have to be reviewed. It would be very important to create a system by which, at the Local level, we have a Core Team integrated by multi-sectoral representatives.
Advocacy at all levels is needed to create a space for the Azeri children; this is to include the perspective of children's rights, the prevention of disabilities, the reinforcement of gender equality, the re-dimension of the family roles, the role of men in the lives of children, and the partnerships that at all levels of society has to be created for the development of children.
Promoting Integration of Child Development with Health and Nutrition. Understanding the relationship between the psychosocial, nutrition and health needs of the young child will result in the delivery of a comprehensive approach to child health. Thus, young children as well as parents will benefit from the activities. Currently, there are excellent possibilities to implement this area with the programs for newborn babies, with the promotion of breastfeeding, and IMCI.
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