SEATTLE — A kindergarten in Pănăşeşti, Moldova is one among many schools that received a portion of the $13.2 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2005 and 2011. Students in the small village attend school in a 30-year-old building that the World Bank repaired in partnership with GPE. The rehabilitated kindergarten has become a focal point in the community and a motivation for people to make decisions about the town in which they live – all thanks to the revitalization of early childhood education in Moldova.
Since 2000, Moldovan authorities have been trying to improve access to early childhood education (ECE). In 2002, the Moldovan government implemented the Education For All strategy and named ECE its top priority. The government also included ECE as a priority in Moldova’s strategy to eradicate poverty.
In 2005, the World Bank and UNICEF partnered with GPE to provide two grants for schools in Moldova. These grants support the Moldovan government’s efforts to increase access to early childhood development, especially for children with special needs and children living in poverty, and to improve the quality of preschools and kindergartens like the one in Pănăşeşti.
The GPE grant supports mentoring and training programs for new teachers, new learning materials and the measurement of students’ academic readiness to go to first grade. GPE and the World Bank are taking a sustainable approach to the revitalization of education in Moldova. Around 35 percent of the grants are being used for repairing and furnishing schools, with responsibility for completion of these upgrades given to local authorities.
Between 2000 and 2014, Moldova’s funding allocation for ECE doubled. As a result of this increase, more children enrolled in early education. From 2000-2010, the number of schools increased by 22 percent, and from 2004 to 2010, total enrollment increased from 66 percent to 77 percent.
With these successes, one factor remained unchanged: the gap between urban and rural schools, a commonality among weakened education systems. In 2010, there were still 200 schools with little to no access to quality preschool education, and enrollment in rural areas was at 67 percent compared with 95 percent in urban centers. GPE and the World Bank continued to work toward total access to ECE, and in October of 2014, rural enrollment rose by four percent.
Since the first round of the GPE grant in 2009, an additional 1,100 children have gained equal access to ECE in 25 different locations in Moldova. People continue to promote revised legislation that makes access to preschool a priority.
In addition to the grants, GPE implemented programs in schools that worked to improve school and community policies regarding ECE. These programs increased enrollments in preschool — especially for children with special needs — created inclusive education policies, implemented professional development for teachers, mobilized communities to take action and established partnerships with social entities to continue the campaign for ECE.
GPE and the World Bank rehabilitated 101 schools and 21 community centers and furnished 553 preschools. All preschools in Moldova received learning materials for children, teachers, staff and parents. The project resulted in 122 new preschools, which created more than 2,000 jobs. Now, more than 4,000 children with special needs and children living in poverty have access to quality education in Moldova.
GPE is continuing its work with UNICEF and the World Bank to ensure that every child has access to the education they need.
– Rachel Cooper