Lack of access to early learning is yet another issue affecting the wellbeing of children in Kyrgyzstan. In spite of some progress in the 2000s; the number of preschool institutions has doubled, and number of covered children increased by three times, the overall attendance rate remains considerably low.
Early Childhood Development and Learning
Lack of access to early learning is yet another issue affecting the wellbeing of children in Kyrgyzstan.
According to MICS 2014, only 23 per cent of 36-59 months old children are attending an organised early childhood education programme across the country. Geographic disparities are notable – the figure is as high as 40.5 per cent in urban areas, compared to 16 per cent in rural areas highly because of limited funding sources available for teacher salaries in rural municipalities.
11.7 per cent of children in the poorest households attend kindergartens.
In addition to the urban-rural differences, socioeconomic status is also a critical factor that hinders children from attending early childhood education programme. 50 per cent of children from the richest households attend such programmes, while the figure drops to 11.7 per cent among children in the poorest households. Most of children with disabilities are home-schooled or do not receive extra attention in kindergartens because teachers lack competence in inclusive early learning, parents and local authorities are unaware of support available, and referral services are scarce.
Only 20 per cent of teachers have educational background in early childhood development and education.
Insufficient quality of preschool and pre-primary education is another challenge. Only 20 per cent of teachers have educational background in early childhood development and education, and the majority of the rest even have never gone through appropriate trainings. Though there are certain standards set by the Ministry of Education and Science, most of children don’t benefit from them due to absence of monitoring mechanism.
Since 2006, UNICEF has been supporting community-based kindergartens and school preparedness classes, expanding access to preschool and pre-primary education. The kindergartens established with UNICEF support are located in districts with the highest poverty rates and low preschool and pre-primary education enrolment. UNICEF provides workshops, trainings for teachers and technical assistance to local governments and civil society organizations to facilitate quality early childhood education for all children in these communities.
Within the framework of the "Education Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2012-2020 an increased coverage of pre-school and pre-primary education is defined as one of the top priorities. UNICEF has been advocating for the development of alternative preschool models and for the revision of the normative framework for early learning provision.
It has also initiated the development of Early Learning Development Standards, which have been approved as an overall framework for the sector, and contributed to the development of a range of teacher training modules and teaching and learning materials. Today, special preschool education programmes are organised within kindergartens and pre-primary schools for children who have not been able to receive preschool education at their earlier age, in order to follow-up on their educational needs before entering primary school.
In 2012, UNICEF launched a major advocacy campaign, which drew the attention of decision-makers to the importance of early childhood education, ensuring universal school readiness and securing state funds for teacher’s salaries.
Lately, UNICEF has launched a new project ‘ECD for Peacebuilding and Social Cohesion’ where kindergarten teachers from multi-ethnic regions are trained to be able to promote tolerant attitude of children towards ‘the other’ through different types of plays. While the direct target is children, through the involvement of teachers and parents, the project is expected to contribute to harmonious inter-ethnic dynamics and conflict prevention in target communities.
In 2018 UNICEF partnered with the government of Kyrgyz Republic to promote the importance of good parenting and playing for children's development in the framework of III World Nomad Games: Caravan of Children's Games.
These resources represent just a small selection of materials on early child development and education produced by UNICEF and its partners in Kyrgyzstan. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.