Preschool education for all children in Montenegro


PODGORICA, 30 March 2015

The strategic goal of the Montenegrin educational system is the inclusion of all children aged 3 to 6 in some form of preschool programs by 2020. This was concluded at the international conference "Quality of education - Early and preschool education for all children in Montenegro", held in Podgorica.

The conference, organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, presents a continuation of the initiatives launched at the central event held in December 2014, focusing on the specific modalities of extension of coverage of preschool education in Montenegro.  
"Our next goal is to include all the children in the preschool education system by 2020. In order to achieve this, we have to work hard to build the infrastructure. This means, first and foremost, the creation of new preschool institutions in the educational system of Montenegro," pointed out Minister of Education Predrag Boskovic.
A recent survey conducted by Monstat and UNICEF indicates that less than a half of the children aged 3-6 years, only 40 per cent, attend preschool education, although this is essential for their proper growth and development.  
Moreover, the percentage of children attending preschool education in the south is greater than in the central and northern regions. For example, only 10 per cent of children attend preschool in Rozaje, while 94% of their peers in Budva do so.
When it comes to Roma and Egyptian children, only 19 percent of them attend pre-school education.  
"In Montenegro, there is a tremendous achievement that we have increased in just one decade – preschool attendance from around 26 to 40 percent. But still, the majority of our children are arriving at primary school much less prepared then the children of European neighbors and this is a profound lost opportunity for the majority of our future workforce. Our caring kindergartens are indispensable and do a great job and - as the minister said - more have been built. We need to expand and look at other models, such as utilizing space in rural primary schools, and also using interactive lessons and other ways of expanding preschool," stated Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro.
Apart from increasing the preschool coverage in future, Montenegro’s goal is also to improve the quality of preschool education. 
Yale University professor Jan van Ravens suggested that Montenegro could be doing more with the money it is already spending. 
"And you know that 0.38 percent is about 10 percent of the education budget and that is, shall we say - an emerging benchmark. It is not based on a very precise analysis, but usually you can say that countries should invest 10 percent of the education budget in preschool. That benchmark is the benchmark that Montenegro is already meeting," Ravens said. 
Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of a child's physical, intellectual, emotional and social development, so for many kids, the most important years of schooling come before they can even read.  
"It is every child’s right to develop to their full potential. It is every child’s right to get good education. But also from the fact which has been repeated several times this morning, that the early childhood years are the most important years in the development of an individual. This is when foundational capacities are laid. And if we miss this opportunity, yes, we can have the child catch up, but it takes a lot more effort, it takes a lot more investment," said Deepa Grover, Regional Adviser for Early Childhood Development in UNICEF Regional Office in Geneva. 
Scientific studies worldwide show that quality preschool education leads to better educational achievements, adequate child development and reduction of the unemployment rate. Therefore, investments in preschool education are among the most cost-effective ones that can be made in order to improve lives of individuals and the country as a whole.