Early childhood education
UNICEF supports Armenia to ensure access to early childhood development and learning programmes for all young children
Early childhood is a crucial phase of growth and development as experiences during early childhood can influence outcomes across the entire course of an individual’s life. For all children, early childhood provides an important window of opportunity to prepare the foundation for life-long learning and participation, while preventing potential delays in development and disabilities. For children with disabilities or developmental delays, it is a vital time to ensure access to interventions which can help them reach their full potential (WHO-UNICEF, 2012). Guided by evidence and research, UNICEF proposes interventions that can help countries to accelerate access to early childhood development and learning programmes for all young children.
Since 2000, pre-school education enrolment has increased by almost one-thirds and the gross enrolment ratio for five years old was projected to increase from 35% in 2000 to 90% in 2017. Despite this achievement, the progress has been slow during the last years and disparities in access continue to be an issue. Currently, 70% of children in the country do not receive the care and education that would allow them to reach their full potential and have the chance to live healthy and productive lives. Insufficient access to preschools, current policy regulations and shortages of educational resources affects the equity and quality of education.
Less than 1/3 of registered young children with disabilities in Armenia attends any form of preschool education, while 2/3 of them do not have access to rehabilitation services.
And 8 out of 10 children in the villages do not receive early childhood education.
70% of children in the country do not receive the care and education that would allow them to reach their full potential and have the chance to live healthy and productive lives.
UNICEF acknowledges the crucial role that early education and care play in providing every child a fair start in life. Thus, we push at making a shift from early learning pilot projects to universal access to inclusive early childhood education, which should ideally start at age 3, especially for the most disadvantaged children. Our first target is universal access to one year of preschool for all five years old children in Armenia, with early education being understood as a critical investment in human capital.
More than 140 children aged 3-6 in remote rural settlements of Lori and Syunik regions of Armenia already attend preschool. Another 100 will join them in the next five years.
We realize our agenda through following actions:
- Increasing access to preschool services for children from small rural settlements through establishment of cost-effective services.
- Establishing community-level rehabilitation services on the basis of existing preschools for inclusion of children with severe and profound disabilities.
- Developing professional personnel (principals, teachers, parents, health and social workers, local administrations etc.) in preschool in terms of skills and knowledge on how to improve the learning environment for children.
- Ensuring sustainability (legislation, policy, budget) of the newly established early learning services and mainstreaming of children with disabilities into regular preschools.
In line with the SDG target UNICEF Armenia aims to
Improve the quality and availability of preschool education services, with focus on increased enrollment of vulnerable children.
Strengthen the capacity of the education system to reach out to all young children—including those with disabilities and those living in small rural settlements.
Analyze the financial capacity of communities without a single preschool and enhance the regulatory system for private, community and public providers.
Undertake advocacy at all levels to highlight the urgent need to include all children in early learning, especially children with disabilities and provide targeted, community based services.
In early childhood development and learning the clear trend internationally is to invest in preschool for three year olds, and provide it universally – for all children – not just a small proportion with high levels of need.
UNICEF Armenia continue to advocate for the provision of at least one year of free and compulsory pre-school education so that all five year old children have access to quality early childhood development, care and education. We will do so by putting in place integrated and inclusive policies and legislation, designing and implementing inclusive, accessible and integrated programmes, services, infrastructures for early learning covering health, protection, nutrition and education needs, especially for children with disabilities and their families.
UNICEF in collaboration with global, regional and national partners will ensure coordination and monitoring of early childhood development and learning agenda through data collection, analysis and reporting at country level, within the SDG framework.