Improving the Work of Preschool Institutions Is the Foundation for the Transformative Path of Education

Unveiling Results and Vision for Advancing Preschool Education: 'Years of Ascent’ Programme and Beyond

05 September 2023
konferencija obrazovanje 2023
UNICEF Srbija/2023/Pančić

Belgrade, 5 September 2023 - There is a need for further systemic action, long-term investment, cross-sector coordination, and motivated professionals to work with children in order to ensure that all children have access to quality, inclusive preschool education, was the conclusion of today’s conference.  The conference also saw the presentation of results achieved in the support provided to preschool institutions in introducing the new 'Years of Ascent' programme for preschool education and care.

Support for preschool institutions was provided through the four-year project of the Ministry of Education ‘Inclusive Preschool Education and Care’ financed by the World Bank, which was implemented in cooperation with competent state institutions, civil society organizations, the Institute for Pedagogy and Andragogy of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade and UNICEF.

The State Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Anamarija Vicek, pointed out that the Ministry, in cooperation with relevant organizations and partner institutions, is intensively working on implementing measures and activities that contribute to the expansion of children's access to quality preschool education.

“We are committed to supporting families in fulfilling their childrearing role, enhancing the professional competencies of staff, and strengthening cooperation with various stakeholders, including schools, cultural institutions, healthcare providers, the social protection system, and local self-governments. Together, our collaborative efforts are focused on establishing an inclusive preschool education and care system that is accessible to all children and open to families, other education levels, and the local and broader communities,” said State Secretary Vicek.

Progress in the improvement of preschool education and care was achieved through the construction and reconstruction of facilities, as well as by strengthening the capacity of professionals to implement a new approach focused on learning through play and quality relationships between children and adults. Also, the importance of learning at an early age was promoted, and improvements in terms of inclusiveness were achieved through grants to support the inclusion of children from vulnerable social groups.

One of the partners of the Ministry of Education in this project is UNICEF in Serbia, which in cooperation with the Institute for Pedagogy and Andragogy of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade developed and implemented a support programme centered on a new approach emphasizing learning through play and fostering quality relationships between children and adults. According to the data of the Final Study on the quality of work of preschool institutions, parents feel welcome and consider that preschool is a good place for children where friendship is encouraged and nurtured, but it is also a place for building quality relationships between children of different ages, as well as between children and adults.

UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Deyana Kostadinova, emphasized that universal and equitable access to quality and inclusive preschool education lays the foundation for a transformative educational journey.

Serbia has championed this cause in its strategic and legal frameworks and through the strong commitment by the Government. And we have seen the positive effects. Through the implementation of innovative reforms driven by the new preschool curriculum, we are working to ensure that every child gains access to quality preschool education. But remaining challenges still need to be tackled - especially regarding children from vulnerable backgrounds, including Roma children and children with disabilities. In fact, what is needed is systemic action - sustainable reform requires solid institutions, motivated staff, strategic coordination, and strong collaboration,” believes Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

The World Bank, together with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, is supporting efforts to improve the cognitive skills of Serbian children in early childhood, which is key to build Serbia’s human capital and the productivity of the workforce. 

“Investing in the early years of a child’s education is one of the smartest things a country can do. It’s an investment that can deliver better learning, health and behavioural outcomes for every child,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Serbia“We are delighted to be able to improve the access to good quality early childhood education; and to do so by involving teachers and families in the process, so that children are empowered and feel understood and free to learn actively and flexibly in interactive environments.” 

The new programme concept is designed to facilitate children's learning in their natural environments, including through their daily routines, play, and exploration. To implement this approach, over 95 percent of professionals working in both public and private preschool institutions and primary schools have undergone training. Additionally, employees in public schools have received support through mentoring and horizontal knowledge exchange. Equally vital is the support for connecting with professionals from primary education through the 'On the Common Path of Learning' training programme, ensuring a seamless continuum of assistance for children and families.

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