The Kyrgyz Republic, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Uzbekistan are enhancing learning for their youngest children. GPE’s support is helping them reach vulnerable students and give them access to a great start in school.
Adina teaches at Ak-Bulak Kindergarten in Grozd, a village located outside the capital city of Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic. Thanks to support from GPE, she has received training on how to deliver engaging lessons that include a mix of manual, intellectual and physical activities; and she and her students enjoy new learning materials, including pedagogical toys, visual aids and books.
In 2018, only 39% of children had access to preschool in the Kyrgyz Republic, most of them in urban areas. The sector suffers from a lack of affordable preschools—particularly for children living in rural areas—and from the poor quality of the learning environment and teaching practices.
Recognizing the benefits of early learning, the government—with the support of a US$12.6 million GPE grant—has been expanding access to quality preschool.
To reach the most vulnerable children, 120 community-based kindergartens were established, including Ak-Bulak Kindergarten, offering preschool to students in the hardest-to-reach areas and in their mother tongue. Adina is one of 310 teachers who have been trained in the new kindergartens, and 10,000 students have been enrolled.
Communities and local governments support the new preschools, and their services are expanding thanks to a new GPE grant of US$5 million.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR): Improving reading readiness
Low levels of reading skills in early grades are affecting children’s learning outcomes throughout Lao PDR. With GPE support, the government is helping its youngest and most vulnerable students improve their reading.
Somchanh, the principal at Somsanouk Kindergarten in the Pak Ou District, notes the challenges faced by children who do not speak Lao-Tai, the primary Lao language and the language of instruction throughout the country.
While mother-tongue instruction may be appropriate in certain contexts, the existence of 47 ethnicities in Lao PDR, branching into 160 ethnic groups that speak 82 distinct languages without written forms (except for the Hmong ethnic group), makes it a difficult policy to implement nationally.
With a US$16.8 million GPE grant, the government has been improving the quality of education by supporting school management and the introduction of a new pedagogical approach to teaching early reading in the national language.
The reading readiness program builds children’s competency in early literacy and prepares them for primary school. Over 100 kindergarten classrooms have received specialized kits of instructional materials, and almost 200 teachers have been trained to apply the program.
Between 2018 and 2021, the percentage of children in target classrooms with awareness of print increased from 35% to 55% - a sign that more students are improving their reading readiness.
Uzbekistan: Increasing enrollment in early learning
Uzbekistan has invested heavily in early childhood education with a focus on increasing enrollment in rural areas.
Low enrollment has been a result of challenges related to access, capacity and quality. Most children were in full-day kindergarten and similar facilities focused on childcare, rather than on child development and school readiness. The full-time model is difficult to expand due to the high cost of delivery.
Additionally, the most qualified teachers were more likely to be employed in urban areas, and only 14% of facilities in rural areas were rated as ‘fully equipped’, which affected parents’ demand for preschool.
With a GPE grant of US$49.3 million, the government has expanded quality early learning through a half-day year-round school readiness program benefitting 100,000 children. Over 4,000 pre-primary education teachers in rural areas were trained on child-centered pedagogical approaches.
Small libraries were established in all 2,420 rural pre-primary centers, and new child-friendly furniture and recreational equipment further enhance the learning environment.
Access to preschool in rural areas increased from 8.5% in 2013 to over 28% in 2019, and the government aims to enroll over 80% of children in preschools across the country by 2030.