Education in Kosovo
Since the end of the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, UNICEF contributed to the rehabilitation of the primary education system. UNICEF supported access for most of the school age children and prepared the ground for the introduction of pedagogical innovations. Approximately 400,000 children were enrolled in school during the academic year 2000-2001.
Another important achievement as a result of multi-donor partnerships and the Ministry of Education and Science and Technology (MEST) was the development of a new curriculum which is based on modern standards. UNICEF also introduced some innovative interventions in designated pilot schools to form the flagship of educational reform.
UNICEF initiated the “School Reconstruction, Water and Sanitation Upgrade” project in 2000. The project resulted in reconstruction of 22 severely damaged schools for 6,600 children; the up-grade of water and sanitation facilities in up to 75 primary schools for 45,000 children; The strengthening of UNMIK’s School Building Cell in the DoES (at that time Department of Education and Science) so that it could properly co-ordinate and manage school reconstruction in Kosovo.
UNICEF also conducted a Mine Awareness programme with an aim to prevent mine related incidents. Since 1 January 2000, UNICEF used to run an effective information campaign, educating people about both the existence and dangers of land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), and about living in mine/UXO contaminated environments.
Together with UNMIK DoES, and in co-operation with Save the Children, UNICEF was involved in incorporating mine/UXO awareness elements into both primary and secondary school curricula and conducted training for teachers in primary and secondary school levels.
Over the years, UNICEF has gradually shifted its focus from direct service support towards interventions that target comprehensive reforms in the education sector. These interventions included in the past support to the UNMIK DoES in defining strategic approaches, support to the “Development of Education System in Kosovo” (DESK) initiative, and scaling-up of pilot experiences. UNMIK DoES designated UNICEF as the lead agency in Kosovo for several major areas: curriculum development, early childhood education and psychosocial activities.
UNICEF has supported curriculum review since 2000 which resulted in the new Kosovo Curriculum Framework. The Framework was the basis for the development of subject curricula for preschool, primary and secondary education. UNICEF also provided technical expertise for incorporation of cross curricula issues spreading through all subject and all grade levels of the new school curriculum such as human right, gender issues, health education and environment. They are also included in the pre-service teacher training programme of the Faculty of Education.
UNICEF supported and played a role in the development of the key education sector policy document the Strategy Development of ‘Pre-University Education in Kosovo 2007-2017’, approved by the Parliament in April 2007.
Currently, UNICEF is supporting the development of a National Education Information System. The System will improve data gathering and monitoring capacities of the MEST and will inform a comprehensive sector plan based on qualitative data. UNICEF will also continue to support the MEST to review the implementation of the Curriculum Framework.
Child Friendly School Initiative:
In 2001, UNICEF and UNMIK introduced major reforms and innovations using a child-centered approach. As a result, 35 schools were equipped with furniture, education materials including science equipment and computers, directly benefiting nearly 20,000 children and 1,200 teachers.
UNICEF supported training of school directors on leadership, management and administration through the Canadian International Development Agency/CIDA as part of the Kosovo Education Development Project. These directors constituted a core group of education managers that promoted the Child-Friendly School Initiative in Kosovo. Furthermore, a comprehensive training of teachers was conducted on child-centered and interactive learning approach. This model was then applied in 48 more peer schools, covering in total 150 schools throughout Kosovo.
Cross-sectoral approaches have been one of the entry points to create Inter-ministerial initiatives for children. As a result of UNICEF’s advocacy, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST), Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning signed a Memorandum of Understanding on healthy schools. The Memorandum established the foundation for better collaboration in this field.
Early Childhood Education:
UNICEF was also the lead agency in 2001 for the Early Childhood Education initiative (ECE), focusing on the development of a Kosovo-wide strategy and policy and providing essential equipment and educational materials to pre-schools and kindergartens.
UNICEF established a Steering Group Committee to act as an information and knowledge sharing mechanism among the partners involved in ECE and to identify programme priorities and policies.
UNICEF ensured that Community Based ECE initiative is incorporated into a five-year strategy planning finalized by MEST. Technical assistance was provided to MEST in order to develop the new preschool Curriculum, Standards, and Criteria. Support was also provided to develop a new legislation on pre-school education incorporating community-based early childhood education as an alternative form of provision of ECE programmes. Within this framework, training on implementation of the new preschool curriculum was provided to all educators of preschool Institutions and community based Education centres.
With the support of UNICEF a locally adapted version of the “Sesame Street” project was produced in Kosovo, involving both Albanian and Serbian communities. The programme was shown through major TV stations in both languages. 52 episodes of Sesame Street containing segments from the open Sesame library and Life Actions Fragments (LAFs) produced in Kosovo are now available addressing children between 3 and 6 year old on educational and developmental skills, as well as promoting universal values such as peace and tolerance, appreciation of diversity in a multi-cultural/multi-ethnic society. In addition, outreach material (student and teachers’ kits) have been locally produced and distributed to early childhood centres, pre-primary classes, mother and child health centres and women’s groups. The Outreach materials promoted key messages about appreciation of diversity and promoting understanding in a multi-ethnic environment for children of preschool age across Kosovo.
UNICEF also provided support to the new Initiative on Better Parenting (BPI) programme for children from birth to 6 year old. The BPI working group developed education materials on selected health, nutrition and education topics reaching a Kosovo wide range of public amongst parents and care givers.
Preschool education is now part of the wider Pre-University Strategy. During 2008 MEST/ preschool sector started supported MEST to develop Early Learning Development Standards (ELDS) for children from birth to 6 year old. The goal of the Early Learning Development Standards are to increase the quality of education activities in preschool education both in the family environment and preschool institutions.
Children with Special needs
There are estimated 150,000 people with special needs in Kosovo, who often live in difficult circumstances, in poverty and isolation and enduring social stigma attached to their condition. In 2000, an estimated 4,000 children, or 1 percent of children enrolled at the elementary school level, had some form of severe disability. In 2001/2002, about 500 pupils attended special needs schools and classes. It was also estimated that 80 percent of the children with disabilities are excluded by the school system.
The legal framework for special needs education in pre-primary, primary and secondary education was introduced only recently. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology set inclusion of education of children with special needs as one of the priorities in the “Strategy for development of pre-University Education in Kosovo” for 2007 to 2017. However, although tremendous resources have been spent on schools and on staff training, the system is still not ready to provide inclusive education for children with special needs.
In order to address the issue of special needs education, UNICEF supported MEST with a project aiming to build the capacities of the Regional Evaluation Commissions for identification of impairments of children with special needs and their inclusion in the school system.
As part of a multiple actor effort across the sector to improve enrolment rates of children living with disability, UNICEF supported MEST to produce guidelines and training of staff for referral and identification systems.
Therefore, there are some key results achieved until now like:
Attached classes have been established within primary schools to create an inclusive environment in schools.
Inclusive education has been incorporated within the pre-service training programme delivered by the Faculty of Education of the University of Prishtina. Special schools are being transformed into resource centres and three of them have established mobile teams to support regular schools in application of inclusive methodology during teaching and learning processes.
A limited number of primary school teachers have been trained on inclusive teaching and learning techniques.
A survey was conducted during 2008 and will serve as an analysis of existing situation of children with special needs education, and as guidance for policy makers and implementers to re-address their approaches.
Children belonging to ethnic minorities
Since the end of the war, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities have been widely recognized as the most excluded and vulnerable groups in Kosovo. Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian groups face a very difficult economic situation and have scarce awareness about ways to access basic social services such as health education and protection. Children belonging to these communities have not been adequately integrated into the education system.
In order to improve Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities living conditions, Kosovo Government is required to activate systematic, long-lasting, structured and integrated social, economic and educational support programmes over the next generations.
UNICEF has made strategic interventions for several years to ensure access to basic services for children belonging to these groups. In education, UNICEF and the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) have facilitated the establishment of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Parent –Teacher Associations (PTAs) in 5 municipalities to ensure inclusion in primary education, and prevent school dropout.
MEST, UNICEF, CRS and the PTAs developed an action plan and a school-drop out kit for prevention of school drop out of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children covering 20 pilot schools in seven municipalities. The response teams run by the PTAs distributed school materials as an incentive for families in need to attract those children back to school.
With UNICEF support the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities have been engaged in awareness raising efforts on the importance of early education, health and better parenting through a series of discussions, school events, theatre plays and TV broadcasting of Better Parenting Initiative video spots and distribution of leaflets in Roma language.As a result of these community mobilization initiatives,140 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children in eight municipalities were back at school.
UNICEF continued to support the education of Roma children living in the Roma IDP camp in Osterode, Mitrovica region. Over 200 Roma displaced children of preschool and school age are now back in regular schools. Daily homework support and other out-of-school activities are also provided to help their achievements.
Women’s Literacy programme:
One of the key initiatives supported by UNICEF from 2001 was the creation of a network of 21 women’s groups throughout Kosovo for mobilizing communities around literacy and improved educational opportunities. The women’s NGOs succeeded in opening literacy classes for approximately 3,000 illiterate women from rural areas (including 200 women belonging to ethnic minorities). UNICEF supported the development of the new curricula for Adult education with close collaboration of UNESCO, Institute for Adult Education in Hamburg, and designed four textbooks: Dritare Jete 1, 2, 3 and 4 containing information on life skills education, self-esteem, early childhood care, health, nutrition, hygiene, woman’s and child rights, civic education, domestic violence, conflict resolution, etc.The textbooks are used in four different levels of literacy classes.
UNICEF also provided assistance to MEST to enable the development of a framework for accreditation of non-formal education (NFE) programmes. The issuance of the pending Administrative Instruction by MEST which regulates the official certification, would confirm that the women have achieved functional literacy.
In order to help rural women gain a footing in the labour market and to maximize the benefit of the literacy programme, UNICEF has commissioned a study to determine vocational training needs, employment prospects for the competences gained and labour market demand for women living in rural areas. The study is aiming to inform and support the development of a comprehensive policy on non-formal education and training. It also promotes collaboration among the providers of literacy and adult vocational training programmes as well as employment services.
UNICEF supported the “Youth Month and Life Long Learning Festival” which was organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the MEST. The aim of this initiative is to promote the concept and principles of life long learning amongst youth and the communities. The initiative focused in building partnerships between different social actors and NGOs to promote democratic principles, peace and respect for human rights.
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