The Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, UNICEF and the European Union reaffirm their support for early childhood education in Türkiye

The current project will benefit over 30,000 children in the country

01 November 2022
UNICEF
UNICEF

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Ankara, 1 November 2022 – A ceremony took place today in Samsun to open pre-school classrooms established as part of the “Increasing Quality of and Access to Early Childhood Education Project”, led by the Ministry of National Education in close cooperation with UNICEF, and co-funded by the European Union and the Republic of Türkiye. The EU Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation in Türkiye, the Deputy Ministers from the Ministry of National Education and Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the acting UNICEF Representative, and the European Union Ambassadors from several countries, attended the lively event in Samsun.

These classrooms are crucial in improving access to early education and to respond to the growing demand. According to the Ministry of National Education Statistics as of October 2022, over 97 percent of 5-year-olds are enrolled in preschools in Türkiye. One of the key priorities of the Ministry of National Education is that every child receives at least one year of early childhood education before starting primary school. This programme is contributing towards meeting this national priority.    

“In line with the preschool education campaign initiated by our Ministry, we aimed to ensure that all children, especially the disadvantaged children, have access to early childhood education services. Since the beginning of our appointment, the number of independent preschools in Türkiye was 2,782. We set ourselves the target of 3.000 preschools and 40.000 preschool classrooms. In a short period like one year, we opened 2.050 independent preschools and 15.500 preschool classrooms, which is truly a revolution. By the end of 2022, the preschools we will build will exceed 4,000, a number far above the initial target of 3.000. This rapid breakthrough has already showed its effect in the 5-year-old preschool education in a short time: the 5-year-old schooling rate increased from 65% to 97%. While the schooling rate at age 3 was 9% in the previous education year, it has increased to 14% today. While it was 32% at age 3-5, today it is 52%. It is aimed to increase the schooling rate from 14% to 50% at age 3, from 35% to 70% at age 4, and to 100% at age 5.

This project makes significant contributions to the preschool education campaign carried out by our Ministry. Within the scope of the project across Türkiye, the installation of 600 classrooms in 23 provinces is planned and 360 of these classrooms are ready for education in 15 provinces. The installation works of the remaining 240 classrooms are continuing in 8 provinces and will be accessible to our children at the end of December.

Alternative and flexible early childhood education models provide access to educational services for even children in the most remote areas. In addition, it is aimed to increase the quality of early childhood education by updating the Preschool Education Program, developing teacher and student books and storybooks and providing teacher training.” said the Deputy Minister of National Education Prof. Dr. Petek Aşkar.

“Increasing Quality of and Access to Early Childhood Education (ECE) Project is carried out under the program activity "Increasing Educational Attainment and Skill Levels by Providing Access to All” in the Sectoral Operational Program of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The support allocated to the ECE project, implemented with co-financing of the European Union and the Republic of Türkiye, of which our Ministry is the Contracting Authority, is approximately 30 million Euros. The Project, under which the Ministry of National Education is the operational beneficiary and UNICEF is the implementing partner, aims to increase the implementing fields of early education and further strengthen the capacity of preschool education by ensuring that all social partners take part in the process.

Research has also shown that at least one year of quality preschool education makes a great contribution to the development of technical, social, and intellectual skills that children need to succeed in their further education and work lives. This contribution is not only limited to the schools but also affects their social lives. Therefore, investment in preschool education is one of the most fundamental methods of improving the lives of individuals and society.

For these reasons, while designing and implementing our Project, we aimed to contribute to our country's vision of delivering inclusive quality education to all children and make one-year early childhood education even more widespread. Today, we see that the project has already achieved its planned goals and has even gone beyond. In the future, we will follow the achievements of the project and support its sustainability.” said the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security Prof. Dr. Lutfihak Alpkan.

“We have visited teachers and students in four pre-primary classrooms in Samsun today, together with several heads of EU member state missions, to emphasize that investments in early childhood education have the highest returns for children and society in the long run. I am glad to see that this project helps Türkiye to converge with the EU objectives of increasing access to and quality of early childhood education services.” Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, the Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Türkiye remarked.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted children’s access to preschool education in Türkiye and worldwide and this project will contribute to returning children back to learning and reducing the gap induced by the pandemic. 

"Quality pre-primary education is one of the most important building blocks in a child’s life; evidence has shown us how it influences positive outcomes of successive phases throughout a child's education path. Failure to provide quality early childhood education limits children’s futures by denying them a key opportunity to reach their full potential. UNICEF welcomes this support to early childhood education and reaffirms its commitment to work with all partners to ensure that every child in Türkiye receives quality early childhood education.”  Paolo Marchi, acting UNICEF Representative to Türkiye, stated. 

Research shows that quality early learning, early childhood education, and early childhood development programmes help to reduce the chances of dropout and repetition and improve outcomes at all levels of education. Early childhood education lays the foundation that carries huge future benefits including better learning in school and higher educational attainment, which results in major social and economic gains for society. 

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