Basic Education and Gender Equality - Country Programme 2010-2015
The education system in Tajikistan deteriorated rapidly after the country became independent in 1991, as a result of underinvestment and the impact of the civil war in the 1990s. Despite recent improvements, significant challenges remain, with very low pre-primary enrolment and basic education completion ratios, leaving more than 90% of children without access to pre-schooling and 20% of girls dropping out without completing a full course of basic education (grade 9).
There is a critical shortage of early learning facilities across the country, with children in rural areas and from poor households least-served. Existing kindergartens are not models of quality. Parents typically do not have the necessary knowledge, skills and means to support early learning at home. As a result, the vast majority of children start grade 1 without the cognitive and social skills that are critical for academic success.
Girls, particularly those from poor families, are at a disadvantage in completing basic education. Whilst primary level (grades 1-4) has attained very high enrolment rates with gender parity achieved, teenage girls form the largest share of out of school children in the country. Even those girls who are able to continue their education often miss classes, leading to low achievement and eventual drop-out before completing basic education. The direct and opportunity costs of girls’ education, alongside traditional gender stereo-typing are amongst the main reasons for girls not attending school. The situation is compounded by learning environments that are not child-friendly, with non-interactive teaching, a shortage of trained teachers and materials, and lack of safe, separate and private sanitation and washing facilities. While in the 1990s girls’ enrolment for grades 5-9 was 98%, now, new generations are born to mothers who have not received full basic education.
Taking into consideration the above situation, equitable access to quality education is UNICEF Tajikistan’s overarching concern, with a special focus on promoting girls’ education and expanding access to early learning for boys and girls alike.
For the 2010-2015 country programme cycle, UNICEF Tajikistan supports the government and other partners to ensure quality education for all children by applying the Child-Friendly School (CFS) approach. The key areas of focus include: 1) Early Learning; 2) Girls’ Education; 3) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools and 4) Life-skills-based Education. Emergency preparedness and disaster reduction will be mainstreamed in all aspects of the programme, with the aim of immediately restoring education services in emergencies. UNICEF takes these interventions forward as an integrated package so that the key education issues are effectively addressed in a comprehensive manner. The intervention package specifically targets girls and the most disadvantaged groups of children, including those at pre-school age and with disabilities. The aim is to demonstrate a model which can be used for scaling up and mainstreaming within the Government education system.
Early Learning: UNICEF supports the Ministry of Education in coordinating efforts to improve access, quality and equity in preschool and school readiness programmes, primarily by supporting the piloting and evaluation of cost-effective alternative early learning models, and the strengthening of the policy and legislative framework to support the Ministry of Education’s management of a mixed-model preschool system.
Girls’ Education (GE): UNICEF supports the Ministry of Education in reducing gender disparities in basic education and increasing attendance and completion rates of girls. UNICEF supports the implementation of a comprehensive GE package in target schools in selected districts covering grade 7-9 female students. By building capacities of schools and district-level authorities, this initiative contributes to creating child-friendly, gender-sensitive learning environments as well as boosting the demand for girls’ education. Through this project, UNICEF provides evidence and strategic direction for the adoption of a nationwide programme targeting girls’ completion of basic education.
WASH in Schools: The WASH in Schools programme is closely linked to Girls’ Education and contributes to maximizing its impact by ensuring better access to safe drinking water, gender-sensitive basic sanitation and hygiene promotion in schools. The benefits also reach parents, relatives and surrounding communities.
Life-skills-based Education (LSBE): This component is closely linked to the interventions of GE and WASH in school programmes. UNICEF supports the implementation of extra-curricular activities in target schools on subjects pertaining to prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, as well as human rights, gender equality, violence prevention and disaster risk reduction (DRR), etc. UNICEF co-leads the Education Cluster and leads the WASH Cluster for emergencies.
The Programme aims to achieve the following key results: a) government policies as well as partners’ plans explicitly address the issue of gender disparity and other inequalities in basic education; b) early learning models are piloted and evaluated, and a conducive policy environment is established allowing alternative systems; c) in 15 per cent of schools, students have access to gender-sensitive water and sanitation facilities as an entry point to increasing girls’ attendance and completion rates; and d) in 27 per cent of schools, students in grade 7-9 have knowledge of and practice life skills.
To accomplish these targets, UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools package of interventions is designed to enable tangible improvements in children’s school readiness and attendance, a reduction in school dropout (particularly for girls), upgrading of learning conditions and education quality and relevance, and enhanced capacity and awareness of teachers, school directors, parents and community members. It also aims to influence government policies and strategies with associated budget allocations, reflecting a greater emphasis on girls’ education and early learning.
As a result of coordinated advocacy efforts with other development partners active in the education sector, the National Strategy for Education Development (NSED) up to 2020 reflects UNICEF’s key concerns regarding the education sector, as set out above.
Particular achievements to date include:
Early Learning: Since 2009, UNICEF has supported the establishment of 94 ECD centres in 7 districts (serving approximately 3,700 children), with UNICEF supporting the initial investment (teacher training, school furniture and educational supplies), whilst district authorities (complemented by parents’ contributions) covered the operational costs. In this way, UNICEF is demonstrating a sustainable model for scaling up within the existing education system. Based on the UNICEF-promoted model, a Government decree was issued in 2011 to instruct 30 districts to establish a total of 150 ECD centers by 2016, fully supported by the local budget. At policy level, UNICEF has supported system development, including Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) and a comprehensive analysis on the financial mechanism for pre-primary education for the introduction of Per-Capita-Financing (PCF) for state-kindergartens, which has laid a solid foundation for a nation-wide scaling up of the alternative models.
Girls’ Education: In 2011, the GE programme was officially handed over to the District Education Departments (DED) in 7 districts, which demonstrates a strengthened Government commitment to promoting GE. DED officials were also trained to effectively implement and monitor the Programme. Under the direct supervision of the DED, over 6,000 girl students at risk of dropping out in grades 7-9 are benefiting in 100 schools in the 2011-2012 school year. At the national level, UNICEF also supported a GE communication and social mobilization campaign in 2011. In 2012, UNICEF plans to support the establishment a high-level advocacy platform for GE, involving parliament members, high-level officials from MoE and line Ministries and NGOs.
WASH in Schools and Life-Skills-Based Education (LSBE): UNICEF has contributed to increasing Government capacity in providing safe and healthy learning environments for children, as well as enhancing the relevance of education contents. UNICEF has supported more than 400 schools for WASH in Schools interventions, and assisted the WASH in School Working Group in MoE to develop national WASH in Schools guidelines. UNICEF has also supported the implementation of the national Healthy Life Style Programme for secondary school students (grade 7-9) in over 500 schools, and trained over 2,000 grade 7-9 teachers. In addition, UNICEF has supported Disaster Risk Reduction activities at schools to help children to be better prepared for emergency situations. All these activities have resulted not only in making schools more attractive and enjoyable, but also enhancing children’s competencies and potential to take active roles in the society in future.
UNICEF Actions on Education
In Tajikistan, pre-school access is concentrated among children from urban areas.Read more
Every morning, Zulfia Kabirova brings her six-year-old son, Navruz, to the early learning cntre that helps him prepare for school. Read more
Early Childhood: the Foundation for All Development