New methods for combating children’s school dropout are tackled at UNICEF Workshop starting on Wednesday and up to Friday with the participation of 12 international delegations.
UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States together with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics organizes, as of Wednesday to Friday, in partnership with the Ministry of National Education in Romania, the first international workshop tackling the topic of children out of the education system and of those who risk dropping out school monitoring. Delegations from 12 countries are attending the workshop, being composed by representatives of governments and civil society organizations. The workshop’s purpose is to improve technical expertise and to offer concrete advice on how the techniques for monitoring out of school children can be improved.
The workshop was opened on Wednesday by Remus Pricopie, Minister of National Education, and by Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF Representative in Romania.
Besides the host country’s team, Romania, the workshop is attended by delegates from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Among the participants there are representatives of the Ministry of Education in each country, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, the Offices of Statistics and NGOs.
“At 25 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Child’s Rights, ensuring all children access to education is still a challenge faced by many countries in the region. To prevent school dropout and for increasing the participation to education of vulnerable children, we need data and solid monitoring tools in order to identify and monitor invisible children out of the education system. Romania can offer other countries examples of good practice in education, and the fact that our country is hosting this workshop proves that the Romanian Government is committed to investing in education and to share its expertise,” said Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF Representative in Romania.
“Perhaps more than any previous meeting on children who do not attend school, this week’s workshop emphasizes that reducing exclusion from the educational system requires cross-sector collaboration. The fact that we are all together here demonstrates that we understood that a child not going to school is a matter concerning all of us. It also proves our commitment to work together in order to ensure that all children have the possibility to get a quality education,” Blanchet added.
Further on, UNICEF representative in Romania detailed more regarding a pilot project recently launched by UNICEF and local and central authorities in 45 villages. Its aim is to develop innovative, integrated, social protection, education and health services in Bacau County in order to improve the lives of children and their families through facilitating their access to school, medical assistance, social assistance services and child protection measures. “This workshop is part of the Global Initiative regarding Out of School Children, which has been launched in 2010 by UNICEF and UNESCO Statistics Institute. Four years later, 26 countries and seven regions have conducted studies on children who are not attending school, yet there are children who are invisible in this analysis. As for the most vulnerable and marginalized children, data is extremely poor. This workshop will provide new methodologies and tools for identifying and monitoring these children who are currently invisible for the education system,” she also said.
“A few weeks ago, the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yusafzai for her commitment and hard work in order to respect human rights, especially the right to education. Malala said: << A child, a teacher, a book, a pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. >> I hope this workshop will contribute to achieving her dream and the dream of millions of children: to go to school and to learn,” Blanchet concluded.
School infrastructure to be improved, Romanian Minister of Education says
In the workshop’s opening, Romanian Minister of Education Remus Pricopie declared: “I’m happy to see in Bucharest today 12 countries discussing this topic. When I studied education I discovered that comparative research is a very important tool, this is the reason why I am very open to it. The problems that we meet at more advanced ages have the roots in the first years of education. It is always important to approach the gaps. (…) This year, at this workshop, we discuss about the future of education. I agree there are schools with no electricity in Romania. But if we stay focused on today’s issues, tomorrow there will be other problems to be solved. (…) In our country, the moment when children are usually dropping out of school is between 8th and 9th grades,” stated Pricopie. He also mentioned that an issue to be tackled in the near future is testing without grades, adding, on a different matter, that in the years to come “we should be able to accommodate children in kindergartens at the age of three years old”. Regarding kindergartens’ enrollment, the Minister of Education stated that “our decision to introduce mandatory kindergarten’s enrollment cannot be applied as of today.” He added that the majority of five and six year-old children are currently being enrolled in kindergartens. Nevertheless, he stated that in Romania there are currently schools with infrastructure problems. “In 2012, we have made a goals’ inventory and we have asked Brussels to agree the transfer of EUR 214 million from other ministries to ours for educational infrastructure’s development,” pointed out Pricopie on Wednesday at the UNICEF workshop in Bucharest.
Also attending the event, UNICEF Senior Regional Education Advisor Philippe Testot-Ferry enumerated as key-groups targeted by the Regional OOSC Initiative titled “Including all children in quality learning” the following: children with disabilities; children from ethnic minority communities, such as Roma; children excluded because of gender barriers; children living in extreme poverty and multiply disadvantaged children.
As for the strategies adopted by other countries’ governments for reducing school dropout, the representatives of Tadjikistan Ministry of Education and Science said: “In our country, children not attending school for 45 days are called out-of-school children, therefore they have to repeat the school year. (…) In 2014, the working group established to review the system and to improve the system of data collection of out-of-school children or children who want to drop out school.”
Around 2.5 million children are out of school in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States region. The percentage of the out-of-school children (OOSC) ranges from 0.5 per cent in Bulgaria and Kazakhstan to 16.8 per cent in Montenegro and the primary-age level, and from 0 per cent in Kazakhstan to 12.7 per cent in Bulgaria at the lower secondary-age level.