Tbilisi, Georgia, 25 June, 2018 – The Law on Early and Preschool Education and Care adopted by the Parliament of Georgia with the technical support of UNICEF includes major innovations targeted to improving quality, access and equity in early childhood education and care throughout Georgia. One of the key innovations of the law relates to the introduction of mandatory national standards and standard-based authorization system of all public and private preschool institutions.
In 2017 the Government of Georgia with UNICEF’s technical support developed and approved: a Curriculum framework (The National Standards for Early and Preschool Education) and a Professional Competence Profile (Professional standards for Preschool Caregiver-pedagogues). To support the implementation of the new standards and the competence profile for caregivers the study was initiated to examine the strengths and the weaknesses of the early and preschool education system in Georgia.
The Study of Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care in Georgia was carried out jointly by UNICEF Georgia and National Assessment and Examination Centre under the leadership of international pre-school experts.It aimed to identify the main challenges for preschools and caregivers facing the introduction of the new Standards and the new competence profile.Theanalysis is based on the European Quality framework as part of Georgia’s efforts to comply with the European standards in education. The quality of public early childhood education and care services in Georgia was assessed using five dimensions: Accessibility, Workforce, Curriculum, Monitoring, and Governance.
The study acknowledged that the adoption of the Law on Early and Preschool Education and Care and development of the National Standards for Early and Preschool Educationwere very important developments for improving the accessibility and quality of pre-school education. But the study also revealed the following challenges that are on the way to the implementation of the Law and the new National Standards:
· Total enrolment of young children in preschool (69,5per cent) in Georgia is low compared to the European target (95per cent). Enrollment rates are lower for ethnic minority children, socially vulnerable and those living in rural areas. There are barriers regarding inclusion of children with disabilities, such as lack of adapted infrastructure, overcrowded groups, low competences among caregivers and social stigma against disability.
· Number of children per classroom is too high, especially in urban areas (for example, in Tbilisi, there are 39 children on average per classroom, with some classrooms having up to 60 children). Large number of children per classroom has significant implications on the quality of education.
· Data from 57 municipalities indicates that 45 per cent of caregivers are unqualified. Most preschool staff members did not receive continuous professional training in the last ten years.The social status of aregivers working in the field is extremely low. The salaries for all workers in Early Childhood Education and Care, including directors, are also extremely low.
· Resources to support child development and learning are lacking in preschools. In some cases, parents are responsible for bringing such resources, or some teachers buy with their own money because there is almost no budget allocated for toys, consumables (such as pencils, papers, etc.), books and other educational materials.
The study also developed the relevant recommendations to enhance quality pre-school education in Georgia, such as increasing the number of places in preschool institutions with more attention paid to inclusion of disadvantaged children.There is a need toreduce the number of children per classroom and develop a comprehensive initial training and in-service professional development initiatives for pre-school workforce, including pre-school directors. A monitoring system for Early Childhood Education and Care must be set up at the national level.
Quality Early Childhood Education and Care can yield substantial beneficial effects, even lasting up to adolescence and beyond. Early and Preschool education is also extremely important to ensure sustainable development of the society and provide equal opportunities for all children as citizens.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.