The commitment comes ahead of a new UNICEF global report highlighting a lack of investment in pre-primary education by the majority of governments worldwide
SKOPJE, 9 April 2019 – A new UNICEF global report highlights 176 million pre-school aged children are not enrolled in pre-primary education and calls on governments around the world to increase investment to ensure every child is given the best start in life. In North Macedonia where almost 41,000 children – around 61 per cent of pre-primary-aged [3-6 years] children – are not enrolled in pre-primary education, the Government has committed to reforms to improve access and quality of pre-school.
“Pre-primary schooling is our children’s educational foundation – every stage of education that follows relies on its success,” said UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks. “Yet, too many children around the world are denied this opportunity. In North Macedonia, there has been progress in improving access in recent years, however the low coverage calls for continued investment to give every child the best shot in life to succeed in a globalized economy.”
A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education – UNICEF’s first ever global report on pre-primary education – reveals that children enrolled in at least one year of pre-primary education are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school, less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school, and therefore more able to contribute to peaceful and prosperous societies and economies when they reach adulthood.
“We are committed to providing every child with an opportunity to grow and develop, and this systematic process continues in the next period in which the capacities of the kindergartens will be expanded by 7,000 new places. This year the Ministry’s budget for capital investments has increased by 300% which shows our determination to ensure the best possible conditions for child growth and development, and in parallel to strengthen the professional competences of the educators,” said Mila Carovska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
The global report highlights that children in pre-primary education are more than twice as likely to be on track in early literacy and numeracy skills than children missing out on early learning. In countries where more children attend pre-primary programmes, significantly more children complete primary school and attain minimum competencies in both reading and math by the time they finish primary school. Other studies confirm this, including those that compare results from international assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) showing that children in our country who attended pre-school education perform better than children who did not.
“Our goal is to increase the enrolment rate of children in kindergartens in the next 4 years to 50% and thus to begin approaching the enrolment rate in the European Union countries, which is about 90%. By investing in pre-school education, we want to ensure the same start and equal opportunities for every child,” said Mila Carovska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
UNICEF supports the government in North Macedonia to increase access to quality pre-school education through opening new early childhood development centers and improving support for learning. This includes supporting development of professional teacher competencies for early childhood education; development of a national platform for peer support and access to learning resources that stimulate child development, and introduction of a national programme on the social and emotional development of pre-school aged children to build their emotional foundation and capacity to better manage everyday social interactions later in life.
In the global report UNICEF is urging governments to link increasing access with improving the quality of pre-primary education. To make this a reality, UNICEF urges governments to commit at least 25 per cent of recurrent pre-primary budgets for non-salary expenditures such as training for teachers, curriculum development, teaching and learning materials and quality assurance mechanisms.
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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.