School Grants Give Mongolian Children New Interests and Skills

February 14, 2017

  • Mongolia has successfully extended access to pre-primary and basic education since its transition to a market economy in the 1990s.
  • In June 2015, with a World Bank loan of US$30m, the country began work on the Education Quality Reform Project.
  • So far, 640 projects across 635 schools have been implemented with grant funding ranging from US$2,000 to US$3,000.

Nearly 30% of Mongolia’s population are under the age of 14, and 12% are under the age of five. With so many young children, the country has successfully increased access to basic education, but Mongolia is now placing a sharper focus on improving the quality of primary and secondary education. In light of the rapid changes and emerging issues the country is facing – managing its mineral wealth, handling urban migration and wrestling with economic imbalances – focusing on the development of future generations has gained even greater importance.

Since its transition to a market economy in the 1990s, the country has made strides on getting more children to school: current national net enrollment rates of 90% and 82% for primary and secondary education are comparable to other middle income economies. In 2008, the entrance age into primary school was lowered from eight to six years of age, and the basic education cycle was extended from ten to twelve years. The first cohort of students to have completed the full twelve-year cycle will graduate in 2020.

But the quality of teaching in primary and secondary schools in Mongolia is an area of prime concern for the government. Preliminary findings from a World Bank report  found that the teachers’ training system is not very dynamic and is currently falling short. The instructional time in schools is also relatively low.

To address these issues, the government is implementing the Education Quality Reform Project with US$30 million financing from the World Bank. The project focuses on improving students learning through better assessments of their skills, improving teachers’ training and supporting schools through small grants.

The third pillar is a so-called “Talent Program,” which is a school support program to increase discretionary spending at the school level to provide further educational enrichment opportunities and increase educational quality.

Since implementation began in 2015, 640 school projects in over 635 schools have been selected and awarded grants ranging from US$2,000 to US$3,000.

Some of the schools’ proposals were aimed at developing students’ abilities through the arts: one school in Ulaanbaatar’s district of Nalaikh purchased musical instruments to establish a musical band at the school. In the Songino Khairkhan district, a morin khuur band was set up where students learn to play the horsehead fiddle, a country symbol. These young players have already been invited to play at Sukhbaatar Square during Naadam, a major national festival. 

In the Bayanzurkh district, a grant also helped the establishment of a Science Lab and the purchase of learning materials and instruments such as microscopes to engage students in experimental activities and increase their interest in science.

The schools in the Bayandelger district of Tuv province – the birth place of the famous Mongolian poet Natsagdorj – are creating a small theater stage to provide a space for reading, play, and the development of acting skills.

While more schools are selected and put their grants’ money to work, children across Mongolia today have more opportunities to explore new interests and develop skills.