ACEI has an active network of country liaisons who inform ACEI about education policies and activities in their respective countries. Country Liaisons report information and events as experienced by them in their communities and within their nations, which means that sometimes the opinions of Country Liaisons may vary from official reports about education in their nations. Here are some highlights from three of our country liaisons; please watch the ACEI Exchange and the ACEI News section of our website for additional updates.
Country Liaison Maryam Sharifian of Iran provided the following report to ACEI Headquarters:
According to Iranian law, preschool teachers are selected for employment based on their specialty, discipline, region, gender, and mandatory testing.
There are no official figures on the number of preschool teachers among the certification test applicants, but the number of preschool teachers seeking licensure for work in preschool centers has increased over the past year. More than 7,000 new licenses were issued for preschool centers in 2013. Furthermore, an additional 25,000 instructors were employed in preschool education over the past two years.
Preschool education is not a national requirement in Iran, although Iranians have a history of advocating for early childhood education. Therefore, preschool education must have a place in the nation. Currently, about 80% of children attend preschool at age six. By 2015 this figure should rise to 90%.
Michelle M. Lalunio is one of ACEI's Country Liaisons for the Philippines.
She shared this directive of the Department of Education during the school year 2013-2014:
Memo on the Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict
In answer to a national and international call for the protection of children from abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and neglect that results from civil or national unrest, the Philippines Department of Education released this memo in December of 2013 to defend the rights of children during specified conflicts.
Lalunio also shared information on the Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda Rehabilitation Program.
The De La Salle Philippines school system, representing 16 La Salle schools, took part in the "Post Yolanda School Rebuilding: Gathering of Partners" and signed of the Pledge of Commitment on 22 January 2014. The event was attended by Department of Education officials and representatives from the De La Salle school system.
The program pledges to rebuild a total of 9 classrooms in the regions of Eastern Samar, Northern Negros Occidental, and Tacloban City from the donations received by La Salle Schools all over the Philippines.
The Department of Education has also undertaken restoration efforts of school records in affected areas. The Department began assessing the extent of the damage of typhoon Yolanda to school records in Eastern and Western Visayas in December of 2013. Plans and strategies for the recovery and restoration of existing documents was then put into action with the assistance of the local Department of Education division and materials (tablet computers) from a Turkish relief agency. The combined effort resulted in the restoration of about 10,500 school records through digital recapturing.
In her report, Country Liaison Adefunke Ekine of Nigeria focused on the importance of quality education as a springboard for development. Recent findings by early childhood educators and neuroscientists have shown the importance of investing in the early years for both the cognitive and non-cognitive skills as a foundation for lifelong learning. The Nigerian federal government has used these findings to influence the development of a platform in which emphasis has been placed on giving every child access to preschool education, and ensuring that every child completes basic education. However, the education sector is plagued with many problems, as only about 30% of preschool age children are in school, most of those in private schools. It has been found that children who attend preschool are more likely to complete primary school and adjust faster and better in school activities. Unfortunately, Nigeria still hosts 10.5 million of the world's 57 million out of school children.
In September 2013, a state governor in the southwestern part of Nigeria prohibited schools from admitting children below the age of six. His argument was that mothers are neglecting their motherly roles in pursuit of careers outside the home. This prohibition does not consider the fundamental human rights of the mothers or the children. The Education Rights Campaign has called on the state government to immediately reverse the counter-productive policy.
Attacks on education have continued in Nigeria. On 14 April 2014, approximately 234 schoolgirls ages 16 to 18 were abducted in the middle of the night from their boarding school located in a northeast province of Nigeria. Boko Haram, a militant group fundamentally against the education of girls, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Learn more about the attack here.
Another major hindrance to access to, and quality of, education in Nigeria is the lack of funding for early childhood education. The federal budget for education in 2013 was less than 8% of the total national budget. Little effect of this money is seen at the local level due to financial misappropriation. Misappropriated education funds in Nigeria and Kenya alone could have put an additional 150,000 children in primary school. This year's Global Corruption Report on education highlights huge financial losses due to misappropriation in education, amounting to $10.5 million per year in Nigeria and $8.5 million in Kenya.
There have been some positive steps taken to improve childhood education in Nigeria. There is a movement promoting the establishment of kindergarten classes within the public school system and making one year of preschool education compulsory for Nigerian children. The Kwara state is vigorously pursuing this end. Some are also advocating for the incorporation of the education and care of children below the age of 3 in the National Policy on Education, and the documentation of a National Policy for Integrated Early Childhood Development in Nigeria. This would provide for a holistic approach in which different sectors, including health, the environment, finance, agriculture, women's affairs, information, and national planning, provide interventions for the cognitive, social, moral, and emotional development of children.