By Elton Stafa
Preschool education finance reform, creating a more inclusive and resilient society
Early childhood education is particularly important for improving the educational opportunities and overall quality of life for children, especially those coming from poor or disadvantaged households and also creates pathways to a more inclusive, peaceful and resilient society. The PLGP continues to lobby and advocate for the advancement of the preschool education finance reform which was initiated in 2019. This June, the PLGP, together with the MoFE and the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth (MoESY), conducted a Roundtable Discussion which brought together more than 40 senior finance and education officials from select local governments, the MoFE, and the MoESY to discuss next steps in the process to improve preschool education financing. Discussions continue to focus on four key areas:
Cumulatively these lines of effort would greatly improve preschool quality and enrollment rates as well as simultaneously working to alleviate poverty, improve gender equity, and promote social inclusion and development in Albania. The MoFE and MoESY remain committed to continue discussions on all these fronts.
In January 2019, after more than a year of discussions, consultations, and successful cooperation between the PLGP, the MoFE, and the MoESY, the Government of Albania (GoA) decided to increase the level of funding for preschool education by 10%, providing additional funding to those local governments that had an urgent need for new teachers as measured by their pupil-to-teacher ratios. Even more importantly, the financing system was improved in terms of equity and predictability – focusing primarily on the number of pupils as required by Albanian law and in alignment with international best practices. This change resulted in a general reduction in class sizes, from 18 to 15 preschool pupils per teacher. The effects of the reforms have resonated most in those municipalities such as Tirana, Durres, Kamez, Kruje, and Kukes, that had very overcrowded preschool classes.
Overall, as a result of this program, more than 52.000 (71%) of preschool-aged children will benefit from more appropriate class sizes – a key precondition for improving accessibility and quality of preschools. This change ensures Albania’s youngest generation is able to socialize at an early stage, thereby creating opportunities for a more inclusive and resilient society. It also frees up additional time of mothers and other caregiving family members, allowing the impactful secondary effect of having more time available for participation in work outside the home and therefore greater inclusion in the labor market for these previously-excluded demographics.