The government of Moldova identified early childhood education (ECE) as a priority for the first time in its 2002 Education For All strategy.
Given its importance in the overall development of the child, ECE was also included as a priority in the country’s poverty reduction strategy and other developmental policies, including the United Nations Development Framework for 2002-2012.
In 2005 Moldova joined the Global Partnership for Education and received two grants (in 2005 and 2011) totaling US$13.2million, which were solely devoted to the revitalization of ECE.
As a priority sector, the budget allocated to education over the period 2000-2015 grew steadily (18% in 2015), in particular investments in ECE, which almost doubled, from 12% in 2000 to 22% in 2015 on the total education expenditure.
As a result, more and more children aged 3 to 6 were enrolled in early education programs.
The ECE enrollment rate shot up from 44% in 2000 to 85% in 2015, and continues to grow thanks to sustained efforts by the government in partnership with local authorities and development partners.
Moldova reached and even exceeded in 2011 the MDG target for preschool enrollment, which had been set at 78%.
But despite this significant increase in enrollments, large discrepancies existed between rural and urban localities, up to a 30% difference in some cases.
GPE’s support to equitable access to early childhood services
The focus of the GPE grants was on equitable access to early childhood services for the most vulnerable children (children living in poverty, children with special needs/disabilities, Romani and children left behind by migration).
The grants also focused on improving quality of ECE through identification and use of innovation, knowledge sharing, efficient use of funds and consolidated partnerships.
One of the indicators used while selecting the most vulnerable communities was the Education Deprivation Index. The map below shows the coverage of GPE grants (red dots), highlighting all regions covered by ECE services.
The grants had a triple impact on policies, on institutions and on communities. Here are the five key achievements and some lessons learned from implementing these programs.
Achievement #1: Increase in preschool enrollments
In 2006, the enrollment rate of children aged 3-6 was 70.7%. More than 230 rural kindergartens were not functioning. GPE grants helped by renovating and equipping kindergartens with furniture, playgrounds, toys, teaching materials, small libraries and other goods necessary to allow them to function adequately.
Between 2006 and 2014:
- 101 kindergartens and 21 community centers were renovated with GPE funds and community contributions
- 553 pre-schools received furniture and toys.
- 87 pre-schools received playground equipment.
- 1,440 of pre-schools (100%) received books & didactic materials for children, educators and parents.
- 130 mentoring centers created in kindergartens received technical echippment and books.
As a result:
- The gross enrollment rate in preschool of children aged 3-6 increased by 13% (from 70.7% in 2006 to 85% to 2015).
- 122 new preschools were established creating more than 2,000 jobs.
- The number of children who have access to qualitative educational services increased by 29,000, including more than 4,000 of the most vulnerable children.
Achievement #2: Increase in enrollment of children with special needs
In Moldova, the education system was not prepared to welcome children with special education needs: services were not available and teaching staff were not trained.
The GPE funding contributed to the creation of 4 rehabilitation centers in kindergartens, equipped with furniture, books, toys, teaching materials, specialized recovery equipment and vehicles for transporting children with special needs.
Simultaneously, local authorities funded specialized support services for these children: psychological support, speech therapy, physiotherapy.
These actions allowed about 200 children with special needs to attend kindergarten.
In order to ensure inclusion for children in kindergartens, trainings on inclusive education practices were conducted to enhance the ability of educators, managers and non-teaching staff, as well as parents, and to work with children with special needs.
Another 3,000 children with special needs still need access to education. The government of Moldova has approved the Education Code in 2014, which stipulates that children with special needs have the same rights to access educational and rehabilitation services offered by preschools.
This will increase the chance that these children will be well socially integrated, giving them the chance at a brighter future.
Achievement #3: Development of inclusive education policies
Between 2007 and 2014 a set of educational policy documents on ECE was drafted to help raise the quality of inclusive early education.
The new policies—Early Learning & Development Standards (ELDS), Professionals Standards, Regulations for Community Centers, School Readiness Tool, methodological guides for educators, managers, LPA representatives, parents, books for children—were highly appreciated at the national and international levels.
Innovation was mainstreamed into the new Code of Education and the national strategy “Education - 2020” approved in 2014.
Achievement #4: Piloting innovation
The ECE reform cannot achieve a paradigmatic shift at classroom level from teacher-centered to child-centered practices without investing in teachers.
Research on the implementation of child-centered policies undertaken in 2013 revealed that large-scale cascade training in the child-centered methodology, held in Moldova for the past few years under GPE, did not manage to improve the competencies and skills of all pre-school professionals.
More than 50% of educators were not ready to create a learning environment that could lay the basis for the development of skills in young children that are relevant to today’s world.
Therefore, in order to reach a common vision on quality and produce a positive change in children’s learning outcomes, there was a need to model an innovative approach to support child-centered practices, in this case, mentoring for professional development at the workplace.
Recent studies prove that because of this intervention, 83% of educators apply Early Learning Development Standards (ELDS) and professional standards and 79% of educators apply child-friendly approaches. Accordingly, 80% of children are on track with regard to ELDS.
Achievement #5: Strengthening social partnerships
Through the media campaign "Help him grow into a great person" communities were mobilized; social partnerships were established to include children at-risk in preschools.
Thus, 926 cross-sectoral community teams of professionals, comprised of educators, nurses and social workers (in total about 2,800 people) were trained to promote integrated services at the community level.
As a result, community teams have significantly contributed to empowering parents to claim their children’s right to early education and participate more actively in children's education and development. The campaign resulted in more than 3,000 children from vulnerable families to benefit from early education.
 UNICEF Moldova, Ministry of Education, Assessment on the implementation of the ECD Curriculum, ELDS and Professional Standards for Educators, Chisinau, 2012
 Ministry of Education, the World Bank, UNICEF Moldova, End-of-Project Evaluation Study of the EFA/FTI 1&2, and Global Partnership for Education project in Moldova, Chisinau 2014