Press Centre 2009/06/12 (2): Education

UNICEF supports expansion of preschool education in Turkey

Minister of National Education Nimet Çubukçu (centre) with Undersecretary Muammer Yaşar Özgül (left) and UNICEF Turkey Representative Reza Hossaini (right)
Photograph by: © 2009 UNICEF Turkey

ANKARA — UNICEF has welcomed the Turkish government’s adoption of a plan to ensure 100% enrolment in pre-primary education among five year-olds in 32 out of the country’s 81 provinces in the 2009-10 school year.

The governors and directors of education of the 32 provinces gathered in Ankara on June 11 to hear Minister of National Education Nimet Çubukçu underline the importance of the initiative. Governors are to be responsible for providing physical facilities while the Ministry will provide teachers and equipment.

“The pre-school education period is a very important period when the child develops rapidly and forms basic habits and skills,” the minister explained. She called on public officials, non-government organizations, the media and ordinary citizens to contribute to making the project to expand pre-school education a success. Parents need to become more aware that the cognitive development of children begins at a very early age, she added.

High returns

Addressing the governors, UNICEF Turkey Representative Reza Hossaini commended the Ministry on its efforts to expand pre-primary education. Pre-primary education was an investment with very high returns, he noted.

UNICEF has consistently emphasized the importance of pre-primary education if children are to acquire the cognitive, motor and communicative skills needed for primary school, and to prepare them emotionally and behaviourally, so that they can. achieve their full potential at all levels of the education system. Pre-school education also makes it easier for mothers to work, increases their mobility and enhances their opportunities for life-long learning.

Ambitious targets

In Turkey, school normally starts in the year in which children reach the age of six. However, pre-school education is increasingly being provided by the state for children aged 60-72 months. Enrolment rates in this age group have risen from 11.7% in the 2002-3 school year to 33% in 2008-9. The 32 provinces selected for expansion are those where enrolment ratios of over 50% have already been achieved.

Ms Çubukçu said that by the 2013-2014 school year the government aimed to achieve 80% enrolment nationwide among five year-olds, 39% among four year-olds and 18% among three year-olds.

Left behind

Participants at the meeting included Ministry Undersecretary Muammer Yaşar Özgül, Director General of Preschool Education Remzi İnanlı, and Mr Nuri Okutan, a well-known advocate of pre-school education who, as provincial governor, succeeded in raising pre-school registration among five year-olds in the northeastern province of Trabzon to 92%.

Meanwhile, with support from the EU, UNICEF Turkey is working with the Ministry and other partners to develop a community-based model that will ensure that the most disadvantaged children get the benefit of preschool education, to prevent them from being left behind. Enabling disadvantaged children to benefit from pre-primary education will go a long way towards reducing inequality of opportunity and preventing the transfer of poverty from one generation to another.

Also present for the occasion were Alanor Olalı, Executive Director of the Turkish National Committee for UNICEF, local officials Deputy Governor Volkan Barış Göçmez; Kahramanmaraş Education Director Sebahattin Akgül; Sabri Başköy from the Provincial Administrations Directorate General of the Ministry of the Interior; Cengiz Cuhadar, Branch Head in the MoNE Directorate General of Primary Education; UNICEF Turkey Communications Assistant Şehnaz Tanılkan; Ziya Kır from the Provincial Administrations Directorate General of the Ministry of Interior, and donors Erkan Makascı and Amine Nur Bilimer.

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