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UNICEF Armenia calls for more investment in early childhood learning

© UNICEF/Armenia 2007/Igor Dashevskiy
October 2007. Armenia. A kindergarten in Dilijan, Tavoush region. Number of children attending preschools in Armenia has drastically dropped since independence as well as the number of preschools.
YEREVAN, 2 October 2007 – Representatives from ministries, parliament, governors, international organizations and members of non-governmental organizations gathered today to discuss challenges of early childhood learning and pre-school education in Armenia.

The roundtable on ‘Education Reforms and Pre-school Priorities’, organized by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNICEF, served as a forum to discuss current programmes for early childhood education and development and mechanisms to increase investments in education for young children.

“Decades of research have proven the importance of early childhood learning and shown that pre-school is a sound public investment,” UNICEF Representative in Armenia Sheldon Yett said. “Investments in improving pre-school system will pay tremendous dividends down the road.”

For every $1 spent on early childhood care, there is a $7 return through cost savings. This figure is derived from studies showing that participants in pre-school and day care are less likely to suffer illnesses, repeat grades, drop out of school, or require remedial services later in life. Moreover, by shifting money within budgets, nations can create comprehensive programmes for their youngest citizens without adding large sums of money or further depleting their budgets.

In Armenia the care and education for young children does not receive the budgetary resources required. The situation in Armenia is fairly typical to many countries in the region. Pre-school attendance levels have fallen with the dismantling of earlier centralized institutions and structures, accompanied by cutbacks in social spending, without complementary efforts to build local capacity and to ensure resources at the local level are identified. The percentage of children enrolled in pre-school dropped from 47 per cent in 1989 to just over 21 per cent in 2006.  

“This means that today, most children start school at a significant and progressive disadvantage.  Most children, who are new entrants to primary school, arrive unprepared for formal education.  The result is a shaky foundation – students risk being unable to meet their full potential, reducing their eventual contributions to their communities,” Sheldon Yett emphasized.

This roundtable was an opportunity to carry out a comprehensive review of existing pre-school activities in the larger context of the ongoing education reforms, share experience on the importance of pre-school education, review existing legislation that affects young children, as well as discuss the possibility of increased budget allocations for pre-schools. In addition, the event provided a forum to bring up and analyze alternative pre-school models that have already been successfully implemented in Armenia.  

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Emil Sahakyan, UNICEF Armenia, Tel: (374 1) 523-546, 566-497,580-174
E-mail: esahakyan@unicef.org




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