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Governments and UNICEF call for inclusion of all children in quality learning

Millions of children in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia are missing out on education

ISTANBUL, Turkey 10 December 2013 — A rallying call to get millions of children who are out of school back into quality learning was launched today at the opening ceremony of the Regional Ministerial Education Conference in Istanbul.

The call to action ‘Education Equity Now!’ supported by the Government of Turkey and UNICEF, will call on 20 governments in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia to put education reform measures in place so that all children, particularly the most vulnerable and excluded, are reached.

The objective is to get every child into school, every child learning early, every child learning well, and every child supported by a well-governed and well-resourced education system. 

“The importance of quality and relevant education for everyone should be emphasized to enhance education gains and to remove inequalities in education. It is a must to improve the quality of education systems in the region to make sure that every child graduates with the basic skills and qualifications needed for life in the 21st century,” said Turkey’s Minister of National Education Nabi Avci at the opening ceremony.

UNICEF estimates that some 2.5 million children are not enrolled in basic education in the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Of these, 1.6 million are pre-primary school age children who missing out on school due to a serious shortage of services and facilities. 

“Tomorrow’s society starts in today’s schools. We need to seize this moment for collective action to end the exclusion of children from schools and learning,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt. “With all the means at our disposal—such as innovative partnerships, policies and technology—we can make a bold commitment to increasing access to quality education for all children.” 

Even when children are in school, many are not learning and are not equipped with the skills needed to thrive in their communities and the job market. About half of 15 year-old students in the region do not meet baseline standards in reading, science and mathematics. Millions more adolescents drop out before completing upper secondary education. 

Among the most excluded are children with disabilities, children from ethnic and linguistic minorities, those from the poorest families, from rural areas, from migrant families and working children.

UNICEF says that without sustained efforts, there is a real danger that countries will not meet their pledges to achieve universal primary education by the Millennium Development Goal 2015 target year. 

Participants in the conference, which concludes on Friday, 13 December, include ministers, deputy ministers and top officials of the ministries of education, civil and social affairs, finance and social protection, relevant experts, parliamentarians, civil society and youth representatives. 

For further information, please contact:

John Budd UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Communication Chief, Mobile: +41794311537, Email:

Lely Djuhari, UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Communication Specialist, Mobile: +41792044482,

Additional notes to editors in Skopje: 

The Minister of Education and Science Spiro Ristovski will be giving an overview of country efforts in achieving equity in learning outcomes. Among them include expanding the programme for improving numeracy and literacy in upper grades of elementary school; piloting specific strategies in support to Roma students’ numeracy and literacy in several primary schools; supporting a comprehensive review of teacher professional development, and development of modules for in-service training based on the International Classification of Functionalities - Children and Youth that will be the basis for expanding inclusive education in all primary schools in the country. 

The Minister of Labour and Social Policy Dime Spasov will talk about improving quality of early learning programmes including the experience with the introduction of the Early Learning and Development Standards; shifting the focus of ECD programmes from care to early learning and development; licensing of ECD professionals and in-service training programme to support the professional development of ECD professionals. 

For further information, please contact:

Irina Ivanovska, UNICEF Skopje, 02/3231150 



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