Empowering the leaders of tomorrow with the skills and resilience they need to succeed
Access to quality early childhood education (ECE) continues to be challenging in the country. 20% of children aged 3-5 still do not have access to ECE services (NSO, 2022). This is particularly an issue for children of rural herders, children with disabilities, and low-income families. In addition, maintaining the quality of ECE presents challenges, which has implications for school readiness and schooling. As per MICS, 2018, young children had 67% numeracy and literacy skills, which is lower than the international standards.
Enrollment rate in school is high in Mongolia reaching 98%. However, school drop-out tends to be among boys than girls. 5.1% of girls and 13.4% of boys are not studying in upper secondary school.
Pre-existing issue related to quality of learning have been worsened by COVID-19. As per the Ministry of Education and Science of Mongolia diagnostic test, primary school children numeracy proficiency level dropped from 53.5% in 2019 to 38.2% in 2021. Grade 6 students literacy proficiency level was only 34% in 2022 (EEC, 2022). Poor quality infrastructure continues to affect learning. Climate change is increasingly becoming prominent, enhancing the need to pay attention to climate smart education system.
As per the government data in 2022, only 4% of adolescents were involved in extracurricular activities or child-led initiatives to develop their skills for life. There are limited opportunities to be engaged in volunteer work as well. The number of clubs and the nature of activities have limited options and were severely restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic during last few years. At the same time, youth are also increasingly demanding greater inclusion and meaningful engagement and are taking action to address development challenges themselves. In addition, many students report concerns about unhealthy environment in the schools.
According to the study conducted in Mongolia in 2018, 30.5% of adolescent had emotional and behavioral problems.
MoES 2017 data suggests that 86.5% of the schools are connected to at least 2Mb/s internet service, student-to-computer ratio was at 1:12.5 and teacher-to-computer ratio was at 1:1.6. On the contrary, the 2021 UNESCO ICT in Education Policy Review Report suggests that 40% of those school’s connectivity is damaged, and the remaining school’s connectivity quality fall far shorter than the standards set by GIGA which targets a minimum of 10Mb/s for each school. The report also stresses that the access gap is widening due to inadequate supply of digital equipment and the existing equipment that was supplied in 2015 is fast becoming obsolete and outdated. Furthermore, 75.2% of teachers have never received pedagogical guidelines to conduct distance education and 20% of teachers have no competency to operate digital equipment (All for Education, NGO, 2021).
ACCESS TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
A critical time to shape productivity is from birth to age five years when the brain develops rapidly to build the foundation of cognitive and character skills necessary for success in later life. UNICEF works on improving access to quality ECE for every child. UNICEF closely collaborates with the national government on improving the policy and planning of the ECE and capacity building of national and sub-national partners to update the national curriculum and introduce innovative forms of ECE services and pedagogies (e.g., Teacher with Tablet initiative). Also, UNICEF focuses on strengthening linkages between pre-primary and primary education, aiming to reduce learning loss and supporting good parenting.
UNICEF highly emphasizes the importance of foundational learning from early grades and supports implementation of national plan on learning recovery through introducing alternative and innovative ways of teaching and learning at schools. UNICEF’s “Let’s learn together” initiative was proven to be effective as a pilot. The main aim of this initiative is to support schools and teachers adapting a child centered pedagogy through learning by playing or learning by experimenting or learning by doing method. Its advantage also lies in the fact that it engages not only teachers and students but also parents/caregivers so that a child can get support both at school and home. The initial result indicates the students’ satisfaction with the lessons have increased from 72% to 90% and grade 3-4 students’ reading comprehension skills have improved by 30-35%, for instance, due to the interventions.
The Law on Education was recently revised and approved with a specific section on Inclusive education that takes into account the children of different needs, which was a big milestone for marginalized children including children with disabilities (CWD). UNICEF will support the government and sub-national governments in implementing this law as well as increasing inclusive access for CWDs to education through alternative modalities. Also, bilingual education programme will be scaled up in the areas with ethnic minority population. As Mongolia is one of the few countries with reverse gender gap, where boys tend to be left out of school, UNICEF will focus on generating evidence, enhancing national capacity to support curriculum reform that promotes gender equality and carry out high level advocacy prioritize “boys’ agenda” in key policy documents and education sector measures. UNICEF will also implement alternative education modalities non-formal education service to support skills building for boys, who are out of school in remote areas.
SKILLS BUILDING AND MENTAL WELL-BEING
UNICEF will promote most necessary skills set such as transferrable skills. digital literacy, social entrepreneurship, employability skills. The activities will combine leading approaches to youth development with human-centered design and entrepreneurial skill-building, coupled with opportunities for mentorship and training of trainers. These will be organization of action-based, participatory training programs for young people on digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and skills for personal development, in which participants will be encouraged to transmit their learnings to their peers and communities; Identification and selection of impactful initiatives that can be accelerated to positively impact youth leadership, economic opportunities, and civic participation (for example: national Student Volunteer Week, hackathons and design thinking workshops for identification of most effective solutions); developing and promoting career guidance programs for secondary school students.
To reach young people, the initiatives will utilize existing formal and non-formal education structures, Youth Development Centers nationwide, and youth engagement infrastructure (including digital and blended approaches) as entry points. In this way, young people, especially the most disadvantaged, are mobilized and equipped with transferable skills and will be better prepared for adulthood.
UNICEF will also support development of school health policy, including promotion of students mental well-being. These will include capacity building of the dedicated school staff and school administration, peer education among students and parents education initiatives.
Supporting the government through digital transformation in education has become one of the priority areas for UNICEF. In this regard, UNICEF will work with the national and sub-national governments, private sector and international partners within 3 key areas – content, capacity and connectivity, identified by the global agenda.
- Content: Develop various types of learning contents both offline (for remote areas that doesn’t have connectivity infrastructure yet) and online to expand and diversify digital learning resources, which will support hybrid and distance learning.
- Capacity: Support to enhance digital literacy and ICT skills of teachers, students, parents and community through capacity building.
- Connectivity: Through GIGA initiative led by UNICEF, work with government partners to build an integrated system to measure the quality of internet connectivity, enhance human capacity and generate evidence and data on network. Leverage data for the enhancement of digital education with the ultimate goal of bridging the digital divide and ensuring that all schools, irrespective of their location, have access to a high-quality digital learning environment.