The beginning of each human life is a time of unlimited potential. Every second, a baby forms more than a million new neural connections, linking curious mind to body. But the external circumstances of our early years determine a great deal of how much that potential we can harness.
Over the years, the importance of early childhood has become more clear. Early childhood development (ECD) is now considered a time which lays the foundation for an individual’s future overall health, happiness, success, and social behavior. The years of zero to three can be a time of great opportunity – or a missed chance to give a person their best chance at life.
Between children born into families with differing levels of income and education, vocabulary disparities begin to appear before a child is two years old. Studies show children with access to early childhood education are more successful adults. For the public, education during early childhood development translates into reduced risk of developmental disabilities and need for special education, less dependence on welfare, decreased crime, and higher tax revenues as children become adults1.
According to UNICEF, investment in preschool and early childhood education yields higher returns than any other level of education, with the greatest impacts felt among poorer children2. Yet such programs receive only 2.5% of Tajikistan’s education budget, and only 8-10% of Tajik children attend preschool3.
The role or absence of education during a child’s early years determines much of their lifelong development – cognitive, emotional-social, and physical. In Tajikistan, a relatively young independent nation with a large youth population, the country’s future depends greatly on the development opportunities granted to its children. More than 800,000 Tajik children today are between the ages of zero and five years4 – that’s ten percent of the country’s total population. Despite a growing youth population, the number of preschools in the nation has been in decline since the 1990s. Without intervention, Tajikistan’s current generation of children will be less educated than their parents5.
A history of early childhood education in Tajikistan
In 1991, Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Union and then entered into a six-year civil war. National instability and budget cuts made the government’s public outreach weak, especially within the country’s education system. During the Soviet Era, teachers went through continued professional development every three to five years, but after the collapse of that system, the newly-independent Tajik government had little budget to invest in the teachers or infrastructure of its educational system. Schools buildings suffered physical damage from violence, and a lack of budget for maintenance, and the country’s teachers had low numbers and insufficient training.
According to the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), 18% of Tajikistan’s school structures pose immediate threats to student safety if a natural disaster – such as an earthquake, flood, or severe winter storm – were to occur6. Also, the lack of necessary school restrooms and sanitary facilities frequently discourage adolescent girls from attending school. Low teacher salaries make it difficult for schools to retain quality, motivated educators, and the motivated teachers are often left without access to updated resources which would allow them to teach curriculum effectively.
Much of Tajikistan has high infant and child mortality rates, widespread poverty, and a lack of parenting resources, including prenatal and natal health care. For those just trying to provide for and feed their family, and stay warm in the winter, the role education plays in early childhood development is just not a priority.
Despite its challenges, Tajikistan has been motivated to improve its educational systems. In fact, free, public education is guaranteed for all children, and compulsory under the constitution. After an initial slump post-Soviet collapse, the country has managed to increase net student enrollment in primary and secondary schooling in recent years. In 2012, the government began prioritized pre-primary, or early childhood, education as well. The Aga Khan Development Network and Ministry of Education in Tajikistan created curriculum and brick-and-mortar centers for early childhood development, yet its resources remained limited – classes were held only a few times per week, and student enrollment was maxed out. The children who were enrolled had incomplete educations, and many children were denied access to early childhood care entirely.
Partnering with the government on early childhood education
Understanding the government program meant well, but desperately needed support, Central Asia Institute in Tajikistan (CAIT) partnered with the Education Department of Gorno- Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), creating a program to increase training capacity and quality for teachers in early childhood education. The government’s kindergarten teacher training and resources were outdated, and years overdue for curricula refreshers.
With support from the Education Department of GBAO, Central Asia Institute implemented the Tajikistan Early Childhood Development Vocational Program, geared toward training GBAO kindergarten teachers in the latest early childhood development methodology.
Since 2012 CAIT has already conducted training for more than 134 teachers through our Tajikistan Early Childhood Development Vocational Program. The program’s primary goal is to expand teacher training, especially in remote areas. 110 kindergarten teachers and 24 kindergarten program directors have completed the program – 134 educators who now bring their experience and expertise to the young children of remote Tajikistan.
After the collapse of the Soviet government, schools in remote areas of Tajikistan suffered the most from low budgets and a lack of access to improved teaching methodology. As part of Central Asia Institute’s early childhood development training programs, we work to reach all teachers with the latest approaches to teaching. Our program brings teachers from isolated remote areas to the city, where they can gather together to learn and exchange experiences with other teachers. Teacher training in early childhood development strengthens the quality of Tajikistan’s teaching and learning environments.
The future of education for childhood development in Tajikistan
In 2019, Central Asia Institute is working to complete a much-needed gym and kitchen reconstruction in an ECD school in Khorog. When complete, this model will be used for other kindergartens across the region and the country..
Central Asia Institute works hard to provide quality training for teachers, especially in Tajikistan’s remote districts. We understand the need to invest in children at a very young age, through early childhood education which contributes to their best chance at a successful life. Central Asia Institute in Tajikistan believes in the importance of providing education which supports ECD especially to the disadvantaged – girls, the very poor, and those from geographically remote areas.
With your support, we can impact the lives of thousands of aspiring teachers, countless young children, and the future of Tajikistan.
1: Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, “Five Numbers to Remember about Early Childhood Development,” https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/five-numbers-to-remember-about-early-childhood-development/
2: United Nations Children’s Fund, “Early Childhood Education December 2017,” https://data.unicef.org/topic/early-childhood-development/early-childhood-education/#_ftn1
3: United Nations Children’s Fund, “Tajikistan Overview,”
4: United Nations Children’s Fund, “Tajikistan: The Children,”
5: United Nations Children’s Fund, “Tajikistan: The Children”
For decades, the children of Pakistan have been beset by a failing educational system. Despite years of ordinances and attempted overhauls, the country’s school system currently lacks sufficient teachers and safe places to learn. As a result, millions of children may never become literate, or pursue any education past primary school.
Pakistan is home to tens of millions of children, with about one-quarter of the country’s current population believed to be under the age of 16. In fact, one in ten school-aged children worldwide are Pakistani. Yet as of 2016, 25 million Pakistani children are out of school – meaning 47 percent of school-aged children are not receiving an education. This lack of schooling and vocational training puts nearly half the future adult population of Pakistan at a severe disadvantage for improving their circumstances, pursuing a career, or increasing their income, all of which lead to missed opportunities for the nation as a whole.
To make matters worse, historic and current gender-disparate educational issues exist, especially in some of Pakistan’s more rural provinces. Nationwide, 55% of out-of-school children are girls. Where boys’ top-cited reason for a lack of attendance is an unwillingness to attend, the most common cause of girls who do not attend school is parents who do not allow their daughters to study.
Largely, however, that gender disparity does not match the values of the Pakistani people. 86% of Pakistanis believe education is just as important for girls as it is for boys, and an addition 5% believe it is of even greater importance for girls. Those are encouraging statistics in a country where female literacy rates still trail double-digit percentage points behind their male counterparts’.
Why Pakistani Schools Struggle
So what contributes to these statistics? One of the biggest factors is a lack of sufficient infrastructure. Of the four critical components of every school – toilets, boundary walls, electricity, and drinking water – only 52% of Pakistan’s schools hit the mark. Especially in rural communities, the lack of just one or two of these components can dissuade students from attending class – especially young females. Imagine your daughter longs to attend school, but has begun to get her period for the first time. If your community school does not have private toilet facilities or clean water, it can be embarrassing and potentially dangerous for her to make the journey from home each day. And this fear of embarrassment, or causing offense, has prevented millions of Pakistani girls from receiving an education.
For a country that desperately needs–and wants–a stronger educational system, insufficient infrastructure has the potential to undermine the efforts of both government and private schools. And this is where the Central Asia Institute has identified our ability to make a massive impact on the lives and futures of Pakistan’s youth. By refurbishing school structures that need upgrades, and supporting construction of new schools where communities have a need, we can provide safe places for boys and girls to learn, and eliminate one of the largest barriers to better opportunities for all Pakistanis.
We are at a potential turning point. With one in ten of the world’s school children residing in Pakistan, the nation is tasked with educating and empowering a massive percentage of future world citizens. Let’s join together to make a positive impact on the lives of the girls and boys of Pakistan. Their access to primary and higher education, and the problems they can learn to overcome, could benefit the future of the planet.
Fast Facts On The History Of Education In Pakistan
August 1947 – Pakistan achieves independence from a century of British colonial rule. 85% of the population is illiterate.
November 1947 – The firstNational Education Conference is convened, highlighting a goal of primary education for all Pakistani youth within 20 years.
1950-77 – A series of Five Year Plans invest in school construction, teacher training, and student enrollment, with limited success–as of 1971, when East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh, 78 percent of the new Pakistani population over the age of 5 remains illiterate.
1977 – A nonviolent military coup called “Operation Fair Play” overtakes the ruling government, and eventually replaces the government’s education strategies with new policies. In the years to follow, increasing Islamist influence on state-run education places greater weight on vocational training and women’s education.
1998-2010 – Revised constitutional policy in Pakistan identifies education as a fundamental human right. Further attempts to improve the educational system have marginal success.
2010-present – Power over educational control and reform passes from the national government to individual provinces; problems such as poor infrastructure and teacher absenteeism plague schools.
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