14.1. NATIONAL REFORMS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE
The Government of the Republic of North Macedonia has committed to increasing the coverage of preschool children (aged 3 to 6) by 50% in care and education institutions. In that regard, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is working in cooperation with the municipalities to expand the capacities for care and education of children.
In parallel with the investments in infrastructure, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy also invests in improving the quality of preschool education. It’s committed to strengthening the capacities of the staff that cares for the children by improving their knowledge.
1. Project IPA-2017 “’ Raising the quality of pre-school education and care”
In this regard, through the implementation of the project, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has been working on improving and raising the quality of preschool education. The activities foreseen by the project are structured in 3 components:
• Modernization of professional and career development of the employees in the preschool institutions
• Revision of the model of (re) licensing of employees in preschool institutions
• Increasing the involvement of parents in preschool education and care, especially for children at risk
2. Moreover, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy initiated a reform in the area of improving the quality of preschool education transparently, with the support of UNICEF and all stakeholders, to strengthen the professional competencies of educators and improve the quality of the programs in kindergartens. In addition, a draft document regarding educators’ professional competencies has been prepared for better children’s developmental achievements.
Together with the Government of the United Kingdom and UNICEF , the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has introduced new innovative ways and conducted training for developing socio-emotional skills and perseverance in children. A web platform on a national level was also developed in cooperation with UNICEF. The platform is a space where educators and parents can use their creative ideas and create educational materials and games.
3. In cooperation with the World Bank was initiated a process of adapting an instrument for measuring early childhood development through analysis of the quality and results of early learning called MELQO (Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes). MELQO includes a suite of 6 tools divided in two modules designed to: measure children's development and learning (MODEL) as well as the quality of the learning environment (MELE).
4. Furthermore, a program for inclusion is being piloted in 10 kindergartens. The program includes a specific module for alternative augmentative communication and set of trainings for professionals, educators, special educators and other early childhood professionals. In addition, a simplified training module for parents is being finalized.
5. Also, a program for good parenting is being piloted in kindergartens, implemented by 20 experts from counseling centers, trained by the Mellow Parenting team from Scotland. The program aims to make parents more aware of themselves and of the impact that their decisions have on their children. So far, 100 parents of children under the age of 5 have been trained.
6. In the past period, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy amended the Law of Child Protection and according to the amendments, children with disabilities will be included in regular educational groups.
Increased Capacities in the Kindergartens
In 2020 the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is continued to work on increasing the coverage of children in preschool forms of upbringing and education by opening new kindergartens in many areas throughout the country. At the moment Census 2021 is under way and the results will give clear data on further needs.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy continued the cooperation with UNICEF for 2021 which is part of the Coopeation programme with UNICEF 2021-2025.
EDUINO e-learning platform
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Bureau for Development of Education, UNICEF and other partners has developed a national platform for e-learning and a game called EDUINO.
EDUINO is an educational platform designed for all educators and parents where you can find, use and download educational materials, games and activities for children aged 3 to 6 years. The platform provides appropriate content for learning, based on play, in educational institutions kindergartens / centers for early childhood development, as well as in the home with parents to ensure quality education and entertainment for the youngest. This platform offers videos with developed educational content for preschool children aged 3-6 years. The videos are about 15 minutes long and are accompanied by a presentation and narration / explanation by an educator. So far, over 150 videos have been posted in Macedonian and Albanian. The preschool education section of the EDUINO e-learning platform is operational and in the future, all educators and parents on this platform will be able to find and download materials, games and activities ready for use for children from 3 to 6 years old.
Increased Capacities in the Kindergartens
In 2020 the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is continuously working to increase the coverage of children in preschool forms of upbringing and education, because early learning plays a key role in the development of children and at the same time enables the activation of parents in the labor market. So far, 6 new energy efficient kindergartens have been opened with a capacity of 416 children, in the final phase there are 4 more kindergartens with a capacity of 200 children, and under the construction there are 15 new kindergartens that will cover 1900 new children.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy will continue with these infrastrucutal activites, together with the World Bank where they provided over 15 million euros for 7,500 new places in kindergartens for child care.