Early Childhood Education
This is due in no small part to the poor public expenditure on education—only 4.66 % of the GDP. In Kosovo, not all children enjoy their right to education.
Early Childhood Education
UNICEF in Kosovo works to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, are well-prepared to enter the education system and have equitable access to quality early childhood and primary education. We do this by supporting central and local authorities to design, implement and scale-up quality, gender-responsive early childhood and primary education services.
During early childhood, the rate at which growth and brain development happen is both rapid and astounding. Healthy progress is fueled by adequate nutrition, protection and responsive stimulation, and an environment filled with nurturing care and early learning opportunities establish a strong foundation that helps children grow, learn and thrive. This healthy foundation has a significant impact on children’s adult lives, affecting their ability to earn a living and contribute to society.
Children learn best through play, and their first play experiences occur at home, often with their parents, caregivers, and others. However, most home environments in Kosovo provide limited support to children and very low rates of stimulating engagement. Only 1 in 3 children aged 2-4 years receive responsive care and early stimulation from any adult household member, such as storytelling, singing songs, reading books or simple games. Fathers, particularly, tend not to engage in this kind of caregiving. Despite these limitations, most parents choose to keep their young children at home because of the lack of availability and perceived high costs of quality early childhood care and education. Traditional gender roles, where mothers are expected to take on most childcare duties, also keep children at home.
Historically low investment by Kosovo institutions in early childhood care and education has further limited the availability of quality programmes. Access to early childhood education programmes is limited, with only 15 per cent of children age 3-4 years attending an early childhood education programme. The most vulnerable groups are also most deprived of these education opportunities, with just 1 in 10 children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, and among those from rural areas, attending an early education programme. This is particularly worrisome considering that access to quality early education narrows the development and learning gaps for children from disadvantaged family backgrounds. This combination of limited availability and low demand for early childhood care and education means that many children do not enter the education system until the year before kindergarten, resulting in children who lag in social and educational development and women who are sidelined from entering or returning to the workforce.
Early childhood care and education are even more critical for young children with disabilities, but their opportunities are even more limited. Early detection and intervention programmes are scant, there are gaps in the services available for children with disabilities and it is difficult to find proper facilities, let alone accessible learning spaces. Even if a community does have an inclusive facility and trained teachers, they still need to obtain assistive devices and transportation to ensure that children with disabilities can fully participate in early childhood care and education programmes. In addition, services are often not child-centered nor adjusted to the local community’s needs. Inadequate resource allocation for professional development has resulted in limited qualified teachers and classroom assistants, further confining these children’s access to and integration into early childhood and primary education.
UNICEF in Kosovo empowers parents, caregivers, teachers, and communities to demand quality, inclusive education. UNICEF in Kosovo supports local and central institutions to design, deliver and monitor quality early childhood care and education services. We do this by contributing to the development of policies and legislative frameworks and strengthening the capacity of local and central authorities to implement and scale-up quality, inclusive, gender-responsive early childhood and primary education services.
UNICEF in Kosovo mobilizes parents and communities to increase awareness about the importance of early childhood care and education.
We advocate for increased investment in all aspects of early childhood education.
UNICEF in Kosovo supports the system for capacity building of educators, to improve teaching skills and provide continuous professional development. We support the development of child-friendly curricula to better meet the individual learning needs of children, especially children with disabilities. We advocate for increased and improved facilities, so more schools are available for children to attend, and so children with disabilities do not have to struggle with accessibility.
Finally, to improve the health and nutrition of Kosovo’s children, UNICEF promotes healthy feeding programmes in pre-school and primary schools .