When parents send young children to school, they are placing a great deal of trust in teachers and administrators. They hope their child will be safe, access the resources they need to learn, and start building skills they will need later in life.
But in some places, parents might not have a complete picture of what their child is learning or how the local school measures up. Georgia is one country where some communities face these types of challenges.
The school system in Georgia is decentralized and, in the past, lacked data on aspects of early childhood education such as enrollment, inclusion, quality of services and feedback from parents on the overall effectiveness of preschools. For many parents, this meant that their perception of the local school and quality of education was based primarily on their child’s personal experience. It was difficult for them to get the whole picture or effectively advocate for change.
The World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) is working to change this through a recently completed $680,000 grant, carried out by Save the Children. This grant enables stakeholders – like parents, teachers and school administrators – to monitor their school’s performance against benchmarks and establish feedback cycles that lead to positive change. The ultimate goal is to improve the overall quality of early childhood education in the country.
Since the start of the project in 2017, preschools in 32 of Georgia’s 71 municipalities have started benefitting from improved data, measurement and benchmarking.
“The benchmarking process has improved communication among the members of our Preschool Union, kindergarteners and parents,” notes Zaur Karamov, Head of Marneuli Municipality Preschool Union. According to Mr. Karamov, the process has also helped the municipality understand how satisfied parents are with their children’s education. Further, it also brought to light the challenges that all stakeholders face in developing quality preschool education.
The benchmarking process is explained in this video.
Georgian parents of preschool aged children answer anonymous questionnaires about their children’s experience and progress at school. These include:
1) a financial questionnaire that is used for reporting on kindergarten spending;
2) a kindergarten self-assessment questionnaire that collects information on how the kindergartens are managed overall and;
3) a parent questionnaire that collects information on the perception of parents with regard to the quality of kindergarten services, their satisfaction with the level of education and care provided, and the teaching and child development strategies employed by the teachers.
School staff enter the resulting data in an online benchmarking platform. When enough data is collected, preschools can be compared with each other and stakeholders can advocate for data-informed change with the municipality.
The National Preschool Association also uses the benchmarking data to develop recommendations for improving the education of students. Local members of the association present these recommendations to the local authorities so they can take action and make improvements to the schools before the next benchmarking.
The benchmarking process is helping to engage citizens, enhance accountability and improve performance of preschools. Increasing access to information makes it possible for parents and teachers to determine what needs to change at their local school to give children the best possible start in life.
Mr. Karamov says that the project has resulted in tangible changes. “The benchmarking in our municipality revealed the acute lack of learning resources and toys in our kindergartens. As a result, the council decided to allocate funds in the total amount of GEL 24,000 (approximately $7,400) to 14 kindergartens, enabling them to purchase new books and toys that support the development of children.”
A total of 877 preschools in 32 different municipalities – serving 16,000 parents – have made data-informed changes such as renovating classrooms, purchasing more equipment and toys, and training staff in current child-centered pedagogical approaches. Some municipalities have also reported reducing student-to-teacher ratios so that students receive more individualized attention.
The project has been closely aligned with Georgia’s new law on preschool education and has helped to introduce internal quality assurance mechanisms in kindergartens. Through the benchmarking instrument, the GPSA project lays the foundation for the development of a nation-wide quality assurance and monitoring system for preschool education, says Tamar Sanikidze, Executive Director of the Project Management Unit for the World Bank-supported I2Q Project.
Early childhood education is crucial for human capital development, which is why the World Bank is committed to supporting Georgia’s investments in its future generations through such transformative initiatives.