Stimulation of children under the age of 5 years old promotes their learning and school readiness. However the 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) demonstrated that parents in rural areas, particularly in the south, were less likely to undertake early child development (ECD) activities: only 50.8% and 51.9% of children under 5 years old in Jalal Abad and Naryn provinces respectively were stimulated at home, compared to 86.4% in Bishkek.
Within the framework of a joint programme between the health and education sectors, UNICEF is enhancing ECD by building parental capacity and promoting the “Gulazyk” (sprinkles) program which includes an ECD component.
Despite a reportedly high 99.2% literacy rate in the country, which shows progress towards MDG2, the 2006 PISA International testing showed Kyrgyzstan ranking last out of 65 countries for both literacy and mathematics. In 2009, the Ministry of Education and Science reported that only 62% of necessary textbooks were provided and only 10% of children had a full set of textbooks.
To achieve quality and consistent learning outcomes across schools, UNICEF will support the Ministry of Education and Science in the development of a student-centered and competency based curriculum for both preschools and schools. This will involve developing high quality textbooks and learning materials in different languages; building capacity in the assessment of outcomes at preschool, primary and secondary levels and improving school leadership and educational funding management.
The poor standards in school might be partly due to the low coverage of preschool education. Only 12% of the age cohort enrols in preschools throughout the country; with numbers being five times higher in urban areas compared to rural areas.
Supported by UNICEF and other partners, the Kyrgyz government adopted a new law in 2009 to expand preschool coverage by opening community-based kindergartens, particularly in isolated rural areas. Furthermore, to increase enrolment of children in pre-school education, a 100-hour school preparation program was introduced in schools and pre-school institutions; and pre-school groups were established for children who do not attend kindergartens. Over 73% of future first grade students were thus covered in 2009.
From 2011, the Ministry introduced a 240-hour (UNICEF) school preparation program within the frame of FTI-II (Fast Track Initiative) as a preparation stage that would lead to a systemic change in pre-school education. For those who still cannot have access to preschool programmes, UNICEF supports an animated cartoon “Keremet Kutch” which promotes the cognitive, emotional, social and psychological development of young children.
According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education and Science, over 40,000 children are not in school, although NGOs on the ground suggest that this number could reach 120,000. Girls are more likely than boys to go to school in cities, but this trend is reversed in rural areas. Older girls attend schools more than younger ones, which might indicate a growing negative attitude towards female education. UNICEF believes that this issue must be addressed at local level (schools, families, communities, religious institutions, police, and local authorities) as well as at regional and national level.
Opportunities should arise for the state and public institutions to cooperate on the development of measures to optimise non-attendance monitoring systems, to register children who do not attend schools. UNICEF is carrying out an Out of School Children Initiative to develop alternative opportunities to provide drop out teenagers with a second chance to return into the system. The results of this initiative will be available by the end of 2011.
Of the 7000 children with special needs throughout the country, 3500 attend ordinary schools, 2425 attend specialised boarding schools, 482 attend specialised day schools and 1256 attend specialised kindergartens. It is necessary to create a flexible system to teach and care for children with special needs; this should include these children’s rights to participate equally and interact with their peers. UNICEF will enhance the mutual cooperation between sectors of healthcare, education, social policy and child protection to provide a comprehensive approach to enable the development of inclusive education.
A UNICEF survey conducted in 2009 showed an alarming shortage of teaching staff; only 23% of whom are qualified. This is probably due to the lack of incentive because of the low social status and salary of teachers. However, in January 2011, demonstrations and strikes forced the government to double salaries as of May 2011; however it is still not clear where funds will come from.
Building on the findings and recommendations of the Teachers Shortage and Quality Study, and based on the Policy Paper being prepared, UNICEF will support the government in implementing a “Reform of the status and working conditions of teachers”, which will include:
(a) Teacher payment system;
(b) Teachers’ performance evaluation and incentive system;
(c) Teacher preparation and qualification (pre-service training);
(d) Teacher promotion professional development (in-service training).
By 2016, it is expected that, as a result of better conditions of teachers, the quality of teaching and learning achievements will have improved as measured by and tested by national and international assessments such as PISA.
 The National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic, UNICEF, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 2006
Figures from 2009 Census
 UNICEF, Situational Assessment of children in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2011, p26
 Mapping carried out by UNICEF Kyrgyzstan based on official statistics
 Ministry of Education and Science and UNICEF, Outof-School Children in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2008
 Yevgenia Kim, Kyrgyzstan: High Cost of “Free” Education, IWPR, 14 April 2010, at http://iwpr.net/report-news/kyrgyzstan-high-cost-%E2%80%9Cfree%E2%80%9D-education
 Government of the Kyrgyz Republic/United Nations, Second Progress Report on the Millennium development Goals (MDGR), 2010.
 UNICEF, Situational Assessment of children in the Kyrgyz Republic, 2011, p25
 Ministry of Education and Science, UNICEF, Survival strategy of Schools in the Kyrgyz Republic – A School-Level Analysis of Teacher Shortages, 2009