BELGRADE, March 13, 2018 — The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the World Bank have launched today the implementation of the Inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Project that will increase access, quality, and equity of preschool education in Serbia.
The €47 million ECEC project will support an increase in preschool facilities through new construction, repurposing, and upgrading public buildings, providing space for an additional 17,000 preschoolers spaces. The project will also make more qualified teachers available and improved curricula. In particular, it will include measures to ensure access for the most vulnerable children through a targeted grant scheme in at least 30 participating municipalities.
Only one in two children in Serbia has access to preschool education. Even for children ages four and above, the enrollment rate in Serbia is low, compared to the Europe 2020 enrollment target of 95 percent. Most EU member states have enrollment rates between 85 and 100 percent. In Serbia, more than 80 percent of children from well-off families are enrolled in early childhood education and care programs, compared to less than 10 percent of children from the poorest families. Access for Roma children averages only six percent. The project aims to make access to early education in Serbia more equitable.
“By investing in its children to support their success, Serbia is investing in its future,” said Stephen Ndegwa, Country Manager for Serbia. “This investment will enhance the competitiveness of the Serbian economy in the long term, and help create growth and jobs.”
Furthermore, the project will support learning and information for parents and caregivers in participating municipalities about how to promote early stimulation for infants and young children. They will also benefit from better services for health, nutrition, and stress-management provided at home and in their communities.
“This project will help Serbia close the existing gap in access to preschool program and will bring Serbia a step closer to ensuring that every child gets a fair chance for success later in life,” said Bojana Naceva, one of the Team Leaders of the project.
“This project also demonstrates a sustained commitment to early childhood education and care in Serbia as a foundation for inclusive growth,” said Marijana Jasarevic, another Team Leader.
The project was designed under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, in cooperation with partners such as UNICEF, Open Society Foundation, the European Commission and other partners active in Early Childhood Development sector.