Turkmenistan guarantees to all its children free access to school education. Although there is slight divergence between official statistics and household surveys with respect to enrolment, attendance and dropout levels, there are indications that quality parameters need to be strengthened.
The quality of education, including the use of overly didactic teaching methodologies, needs to be relevant in light of the new reforms announced by the Government. Pre-school enrolments are 24 per cent, indicating a gap in the adequate preparation of young children for the school experience. Pre-school enrolment further shows a wide disparity between urban and rural areas with 57 and 5 per cent of children attending pre-school in these areas respectively. While there is negligible disparity, if any, in terms of gender, marginalised groups of children, including minorities, children with disabilities and children with special educational needs encounter difficulties in terms of access to schooling.
The present UNICEF education programme in Turkmenistan focuses on two main initiatives: early childhood development and the promotion of child friendly learning environment that includes the advocacy for child friendly schools.
The basic education programme seeks to promote the cognitive, psychosocial and intellectual capacity of children in early childhood and pre-adolescence. It focuses on 3-7 year old children to prepare them for formal and primary school and for 8-12 year old children in basic compulsory schools. The Early Childhood Development Project is a cross-sectoral programme designed to address the developmental years and includes interventions to support good health/nutrition, early childhood education and appropriate, positive family and community environments in support of these goals.
The Child Friendly Learning Environment initiative promotes environments conducive to learning, beginning with the home, the school and the community at large. The CFLE is grounded in principles of child rights and promotes an environment that is inclusive, effective, safe, protective, and benefiting of an involved community.
Early Childhood Development
In collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Education, the Early Childhood Development project (ECD) has contributed to the development and approval of national early learning and development standards (ELDS) for children from 0-6 years. In addition,
As part of the programme, frequent training sessions are conducted on better parenting. These will be reviewed to ensure that they are both effective and user-friendly.
Child Friendly Schools
UNICEF introduced the rights-based concept of Child Friendly Schools (CFS) into the National Plan of Action on Education For All (EFA) in 2005. As part of the process of reform, technical assistance was also provided to develop an in-service teachers training scheme and curriculum development. A CFS manual designed in collaboration with UNESCO was adopted and approved by the Ministry of Education. Approximately 800 teachers have so far been exposed to new teaching methods and approaches through in-service training. Other achievements of this initiative include:
It is expected that the CFS initiative will be institutionalised within the education system of the country and further replicated in all schools in Turkmenistan.
These initiatives are complemented with strengthening Education Information Management System, at both community and national level, with a special attention to setting up a disaggregated data/information system, which can illustrate the problems of girls' education more clearly; and the promotion of life-skills education in both formal and informal settings for young people and adolescents.
Available data shows good progress on school enrolment, retention and completion. The President has initiated reforms in the sector with special attention to improving quality and management capacity, both of which need to be strengthened further. Access to preschools is an important area for future attention. Education – and thus, investment in children – will be a key to the overall improvement of the country’s performance, both nationally and internationally. A national education strategy is being formulated.
In 2009 UNICEF provided the Ministry of Education with key technical assistance for raising the quality of education and achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals and improving school curriculum.
Under EFA, specific support was provided to the country in analyzing and monitoring learning achievement, enhancing quality teaching and learning materials developed by focusing on Child Friendly Learning Environment and providing accessibility for key stakeholders for innovations and effective practices in education, including the use of technologies in education.
In addition to quality issues, significant challenges for children exist in preschool education and Early Childhood Development; educational technology; and data management. A two-pronged UNICEF strategy has addressed (1) policy implications and policy issues at central level within the implementation of the CRC mandate and (2) provision of support at sub-national levels to strengthen system support capacity on the basis of localized strategies.
Capacity development of Ministry of Education and sharing experiences with other countries has offered the Ministry with the opportunity to obtain a broader understanding of inclusive education for children with special education needs, early childhood education and development, outcome based education planning and financing, learning assessments and monitoring towards EFA goals.