Run by the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), the programme is concerned with developing and promoting Early Childhood Development (ECD) models which enhance the coverage, affordability, breadth and quality of programmes, as well as learning opportunities for young children. MSDSP is helping teachers and administrators to gain the appropriate pedagogical training and access to materials and teaching aids. It is also assisting local education departments to introduce the use of a half-day shift system for kindergartens.
Satellite kindergartens are being established to allow children in remote communities to also benefit from ECD activities. These satellite kindergartens may be situated in the home of a teacher or in a community space. As many small villages are spread out, these kindergartens keep children closer to home, saving them from walking long distances to attend school. This system has been very successful in isolated villages where government-run central kindergartens no longer exist or are too distant to access. Faced with capacity shortages, the system relieves the burden faced by kindergartens while also increasing ECD opportunities for young children.
In the summer, whole communities in rural Kyrgyzstan leave their villages and set up yurts in the jailoos (high-mountain pastures) to fatten livestock for the winter. Children also participate in this important tradition. When they return to school in autumn, however, they lag behind children in towns and cities who have benefited from kindergartens, summer camps and other learning opportunities. This has led to a gap in learning achievement among children in rural and urban areas. To address this challenge, MSDSP introduced jailoo kindergartens to the education system by encouraging teachers to set up kindergartens in their family yurts during summertime. The demand from parents for this intervention is increasing. Parents see the programme as an important contribution to their children’s development that also enables them to preserve their cultural traditions.
By end-2010, MSDSP was working in 103 kindergartens and 52 primary schools, covering more than 22,700 children. In Alai and Chong-Alai districts, the programme has expanded access to ECD opportunities from 510 to 5,000 children in five years.
Recent analysis shows that children in Grade 1 who attend programme-supported kindergartens outperform non-ECD children by 16 percent in standardised tests. At the same time, local authorities have made a key contribution to ECD activities by financing the ongoing operational costs of kindergartens.
Reading for Children is a project aimed at building children’s interest in reading, raising their aptitudes and strengthening family bonds. The results enhance children’s ability to learn and prepare them for lifelong learning. The dearth of Kyrgyz-language children’s books prompted MSDSP to develop and publish 32 original titles and distribute them to libraries and schools across the country. More than 8,300 parents have been trained on reading techniques and a network of mini-libraries has also been established to give parents and other caregivers access to books and to highlight the importance of early reading.