Early childhood education summer school gives children a great start to learning

Early Childhood Education (ECE) summer school reaches children with essential pre-school learning.

21 February 2022

Şanlıurfa, Turkey – All of the children we met at the early childhood education summer school were happy and smiling. According to their teachers, children and their families are well pleased with the summer school project implemented as part of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme.

Through the ECE summer school project, children are receiving education in 150 classrooms at public schools or at family and women centres. The number of children registered in the summer school project, which was implemented between July and August 2021, reached over to 2,000 children, 74 per cent of which are Syrian children. During the project, the rate of attendance of all children was a high 97 per cent. Out of the participating children nearly 1,800 children have registered to enter formal pre-school or primary school in the following fall semester.


The alternative community Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme is implemented through a partnership between UNICEF, GAP Regional Development Administration and Development Foundation of Turkey (TKV), with the financial support of the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) and the Government of Japan. The program targets Syrian refugee children in eleven provinces with refugee populations in southeast Turkey.

Sharing how the summer school project had a profound impact on refugee children, teacher Fatma says, “the children were very withdrawn when they first joined the program. The program helped them a lot, they became very social. They gained self-confidence. Now they can express themselves.”


“One of my students lives with her mother and three siblings. Their father passed away in Syria. Her mother works as a day labourer to make a living. Their landlord asks for the rent, but they cannot afford it. They have a very difficult life,” said teacher Fatma. When we talk to the student, we learn that her favourite activity at summer school is to play with the kitchen set and put the dolls to bed. When we ask her what she wants to become when she grows up, she smiles and replies, “I want to help my mother.”

During field screenings, teachers conduct door-to-door house visits to identify student who have never attended kindergarten or nursery school, with many children coming from disadvantaged families facing socioeconomic difficulties. 


“We are trying to identify children who are in urgent need of education, and families with little financial means. This education is a great opportunity for them. Even if there are items they can’t afford at the beginning of first grade, as part of the programme, we provide  all the materials they may need to start school,” she explains.

A main priority of the program is to prepare children for primary school. Teacher Sıdıka explains, “We teach concepts that prepare children for the first grade. For example, we teach them how to write on the lines, and we also teach them numbers.”


Teacher Güler tells us that many children had difficulty with communicating in Turkish before the programme. “The summer school improves children’s socialization and helps them speak the language, so that they will be able to make friendships with Turkish children when they start first grade,” she adds.


Yazen (7) is one of the children whose Turkish has improved during the project. Yazen tells us with enthusiasm that he learned Turkish in summer school. After he tells us he wants to become a doctor when he grows up, Yazen adds, “My father's eyes are not well. That is why I want to become an ophthalmologist and cure him.”


Ekrem is another child whose communication skills visibly improved during the summer school. His teachers say that Ekrem felt alienated at first but is now incredibly happy to see his friends every day.


Teacher Güler says, “We teach children how to find a common solution when they argue, or the importance of sharing when two of them want to play with the same toy.”


During the summer school project, children attend several activities including group play time, breakfast time, reading time, garden time and music and movement time. Activities are carried out in both Arabic and Turkish, to allow children to express themselves while also learning the new language. While children are taught Turkish words with images, cards, stories, games and songs, they are asked to describe their mood in Arabic at the start of each new day.