Supply-side barriers to Early Childhood Education in Albania
Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a crucial stage in a child's development, providing a unique opportunity to lay the foundation for success in primary school and beyond. It holds a central position in the continuum of learning and development, contributing to enhanced intellectual and social-emotional growth in children.
Extensive research has demonstrated that quality early childhood education, serves as a fundamental building block for promoting healthy development in young children. Despite the clear evidence on the importance of early childhood education, there has been a limited emphasis on this critical area within the broader landscape of educational investments and efforts.
Given the significance of early childhood education, it is necessary to understand the context in which it takes place. Therefore, a research study to identify the supply side challenges related to access of ECE services in Albania, and related opportunities, was conducted.
The study, driven by the commitment to support creating an enabling environment for quality education for every child, has a three-fold aim: i) to identify and present the supply side barriers related to access of ECE services in Albania; ii) inform policy and decision-making in support of design and implementation of policy programs and action in the area of early childhood education; iii) gain commitment and support alignment of action among education stakeholders to create and sustain change for quality education for all.
A qualitative methodology, employing a descriptive phenomenological approach, was used for realization of this study, which was particularly important to explore new and complex topics surrounding ECE in Albania. The supply side barriers are described and explored as experienced from different actors within the education system, providing insights into the underlying factors and processes, and unexplored complex and nuanced phenomena.
The geographic scope of this study covered 4 sites, namely Berat, Dibra, Korça and Tirana. Key participating stakeholders were representatives of the main institutions related to ECEC (both central and local level), preschool teachers, directors and psychosocial staff, and parents of children attending and non – attending kindergarten.
Study findings identify several factors impacting the provision of quality ECE services, which relate to: i) Accessibility – availability, accessibility, and affordability to access ECE services, ii) ECE workforce – teachers, assistant teachers, and psychosocial staff, their capacities and current practices, iii) Curriculum – curriculum content, teaching standards and practices, teaching and learning materials (TLM), iv) Monitoring and evaluation – operating procedures and implementation practices, and v) governance and funding – legal and policy framework, stakeholders’ roles, responsibilities, and collaboration, and funding sources.
These highlight the crucial areas of focus that require concerted efforts to develop early childhood education (ECE) policies and programs, ultimately leading to the fulfillment of the commitment to provide educational opportunities for all. They also serve as an opportunity to underscore the importance of responding to country requests for collaborative support, with the aim of improving child development and addressing the barriers hindering the attainment of quality education.
Ultimately, the collective objective is for all education stakeholders to unite, mobilize, and coordinate their actions and initiatives. This collaborative approach is vital for the effective design and delivery of early childhood policies and services. By working together, we can pave the way for a brighter future, where quality early childhood education becomes a reality for all children.
Findings represent overarching patterns and trends observed across the four municipalities. They provide a comprehensive understanding of the common challenges, issues, and characteristics that exist in the overall landscape of early childhood education (ECE) in Albania.