Early Childhood Education in Mongolia
A Ger setting for Herders Children

Early Childhood Education in Mongolia

Introduction

We continue our world tour of early childhood education systems by visiting Mongolia. Please find our article on the Philippines here.

Mongolia is a land-locked country in the North-East Asia bordering China with 4.673 km in the south and Russian Federation with 3485 km in the north with a population of roughly about 3.2 million.

Map of Mongolia

A critical time to shape productivity is from birth to age five years, when the brain develops rapidly to build the foundation of cognitive and character skills necessary for success in later life. Pre-primary education is recognized as the stepping stone to school, critical to school readiness.

The Law of Mongolia on Education states the objective of pre-school education is to initiate the education journey and establish a strong basis from which children can start lifelong learning adapted to their age, skill set and creativity. It is also mentioned that the goals of the education of Mongolia are to develop mental, moral and physical abilities, and to instill a sense of humanity and independency in learning, working and sustaining life.

Organization of Mongolia Educational Management System

The educational management system consist of the central administrative organization in charge of education matters and local organizations, administration and territorial authorities, educational institutes and their management team. The organization in charge of educational matters shall be the educational department in the aimag and city, and educational bureaus in the districts. The non-permanent council shall operate under the aimag and city education department, aimed at providing advice on education policy conducted in certain territory and development planning.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports implements, regulates and coordinates education sector policy, laws and regulations. The Ministry also provides advice to local governments, defines policy and provides support for the supervision of local educational centers and national universities and collaborates with national and local professional organizations. The Ministry is headed by a Minister of the Government and is divided into four departments: primary and secondary education policy and coordination; higher education and professional education departments; economics and finance department; department of monitoring and evaluation.

The main role of MECSS is to:

  • organize and ensure nation-wide implementation of legal mandates for education;

develop a comprehensive and suitable system of education for all, including non-formal education;

  • coordinate the activities of those organizations offering various training programs and providing professional help;
  • organize and provide in-service training for all educational personnel, putting forward the issues related to social benefits for teachers.

Sub-national levels

In the sub-national Governments (Aimag level) The Education and Culture department of the aimag governor’s office is mandated to implement state policies and laws, including those applicable to schools and kindergartens. This responsibility extends to the daily management of state and non-state schools and kindergartens. Aimag or city governors oversee the delivery of education services as per responsibilities stated in the Law on Education and each Aimag has an education team. Aimag coordinates with bagh governors to collect and verify data on the number of children of pre-school age, agree on location and timing of mobile kindergartens, and establish expenses of services into the annual budget plan one year ahead.

In the Soum level, governors at this level establish a performance-based contract with aimag or city governors to provide state educational services.

And in Bagh and khoroo level, the governor is responsible for enrolling children of households in their respective area to pre-school and basic educational services.

A Ger setting for Herders Children
A Ger setting for Herders Children

(image source: here)

In Mongolia, the state provides financing for all children to attend pre-schooling before entering general education. The Law on Pre-school Education (2008)12 sets out a framework for the provision of support to ECE services through both public and private kindergartens and providers offering regular and alternative programs. While contribution covers educational services, other related costs such as transportation, and stationary supplies are generally covered by parents. Additional services such as supplementary teaching hours, summer services and excursions are also covered by the state. The government has taken proactive steps to increase pre-school enrollment among herder communities. 

Challenges and Issues

Like any other countries, Mongolia also deals with challenges and issues concerning Education given the Socio-economic and geographical disparities which persists within the system

Materials and teacher training resulting to poor quality of curriculum

Some teachers are inadequately trained as the higher education institutions responsible for pre-service teacher training offer different, unaccredited pedagogical curricula which affects the quality of graduates. The inconsistency of in-service training and frequent changes to the teaching curriculum compromise the competency of teachers in the classroom. The degree of alignment between the intended, implemented and attained curriculum is often weak and is further weakened by the limited availability of teaching and learning materials. The lower quality of early childhood education in rural areas would further continue to weaken foundational skills.

Low-quality learning environments and conditions

A report estimates that 25% and 40% of the Mongolian population is nomadic. These population includes herder and miner families whose children have been particularly challenged to enroll and retain owing to seasonal migration as they may have no year-long abode.

Some specific parts of the population face more specific barriers to educational attainment. Children from the urban poor and herder households, disabled children, and minority group children who are considered as vulnerable and excluded have lower access to early childhood education. There are also lack of infrastructure provision in the rural areas and low quality of boarding facilities for herder children which hinder their access and retention.

Geospatial factors

Distances between home and school is another barrier as many herders children live between 10 and 55 kilometers from soum centers.

Language barriers and social norms

Traditionally marginalized or excluded from society, such as ethnic minorities, may stagger communication and prevent some ethnic minority groups from interpreting messages and the dominance of the Mongolian language in kindergarten teaching may dissuade some parents.

Higher costs of providing services

With Mongolia’s sparse population and wide geographical spread, it has the lowest population density in the world. Of the total population of just above 3 million people, roughly a quarter are nomadic herders living in portable traditional tents known as gers, generally set up at least 5–15 km from each other. Climate conditions are also extreme, with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to minus 50 degrees Celsius throughout the year. These contributes to higher costs of providing services.

Solutions and Strategies

A number of strategies has been introduced by the Government of Mongolia to improve its education system to address its challenges. There is the World Bank-funded Rural Education and Development (READ) Project . READ is implemented by Mongolia’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Three components of the READ project:

  • Support for rural schools by increasing the amount of learning materials available to students and teachers. Teachers and their school networks are supported in the use of learning materials. Classroom libraries are also being established and reading is promoted through professional development, professional teacher networks, and a public reading campaign.
  • The government’s capacity to monitor student learning through participation in national and international assessments is being strengthened. The efficiency of education policy tools is also being improved.
  • Financial and technical support are being provided for project management and the monitoring of projects.
Children sleeping at a ger kindergarten
Children sleeping at a ger kindergarten

(image source: here)

World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI) indicates that the internal efficiency of education in Mongolia can be improved in three ways

  • improve learning outcomes starting with strengthening functional literacy and numeracy;
  • improve transition rates between lower and upper secondary;
  • more efficient utilization of resources, including the rationalization of Student Teacher Ratios (STRs).

Installation of alternative structures providing ECE services

Another strategy is the installation of alternative structures providing ECE services such as:

  • Mobile (or ger) kindergartens: is an innovative adaptation and temporary traditional housing structures of the conventional kindergarten to the unique circumstances of Mongolia operating at the soum or baghs level. Mobile ger-kindergartens operate in the summer only, and reach out to herders in locations where they tend to move to during the warmer summer months.
  • Shift classes: training sessions typically organized over a half day at soum and aimag centers for children who do not attend regular kindergarten.
  • Travelling teachers: an individual responsible for home visits, mapping, and outreach for giving lessons to children.
  • Short-term training: typically organized in soum or aimag centers the spring before enrollment in school.
An image of a Ger/kindergarten
An image of a Ger/kindergarten

( Image source :here)

The Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision 2030

There is also the Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision 2030 where the policy provides in-service training for all ECE teachers in Mongolia, consultation services for families, mothers, and women through pediatric and psychological home services, non-formal education services, telephone and internet counseling services, training and information campaigns on radio, television, in newspapers, and other print media. These outreach activities include counseling information on nutrition, hygiene, immunization, health care, and child-rearing practices that can stimulate social and cognitive development.

A Mongolian kindergarten teacher Storytelling using puppets
A Mongolian kindergarten teacher Storytelling using puppets

(source:here)

Aimag – An administrative district equivalent to a province

Duureg – municipal districts which are a second-level administrative unit that is separate from rural districts

Ger – A portable tent structure traditionally used by herders for shelter. A ger has a collapsible circular wooden frame that is covered with felt and heated by a small stove.

Soum – A rural administrative subdivision of an aimag.

By Joreen Domingo

References

Pre-Primary Education in Mongolia: Access, Quality of Service Delivery, and Child Development Outcomes

Towards Mongolia’s Long-term Development Policy Vision 2050: Advancing Education Equity, Efficiency, and Outcomes

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