Pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion in Mon­go­lia

The UB Post - - Front Page - By R.UNDARIYA

Ever since the fall of com­mu­nism in Mon­go­lia, the coun­try saw a de­crease in both the qual­ity and the cov­er­age of ed­u­ca­tion in all lev­els, in­clud­ing pri­mary, sec­ondary and ter­tiary lev­els...

...Kids en­ter­ing school for the first time now strug­gle as teach­ers have the same ex­pec­ta­tions on them as the first graders of the for­mer sys­tem, who were two years older than them when they be­gun school...

Ever since the fall of com­mu­nism in Mon­go­lia, the coun­try saw a de­crease in both the qual­ity and the cov­er­age of ed­u­ca­tion in all lev­els, in­clud­ing pri­mary, sec­ondary and ter­tiary lev­els. Due to the uni­ver­sal and cen­trally planned ed­u­ca­tion by the Soviet Union, Mon­go­lia achieved one of the high­est lit­er­acy rates in the world, which even chal­lenges the most de­vel­oped coun­tries such as the United States. The lit­er­acy rate in Mon­go­lia in 2015 was 98 per­cent when the lit­er­acy rate of the United States was only around 86 per­cent. De­spite this, the Mon­go­lian ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem re­mains one of the worst in the con­ti­nent.

The govern­ment-funded ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and pro­grams were a suc­cess in terms that Soviet Union aimed to achieve a uni­ver­sal ed­u­ca­tion all across Mon­go­lia. The ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing that era could be said to be of high qual­ity and up to date by the stan­dards of the time. The por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has cov­ered may be high as all not if most stu­dents grad­u­ate pri­mary and sec­ondary level ed­u­ca­tion, but what is ac­tu­ally learned is not met by the stan­dards of to­day. Al­most all of the state schools in Mon­go­lia were built dur­ing the Soviet era and not much ren­o­va­tion has taken place.

The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem it­self has not changed at all. In fact, the sys­tem in 2018 is the same as the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem of 1988. They have ex­tended 10 years of pri­mary and sec­ondary school to 12 years, yet the cur­ricu­lum stayed the same. Rather the switch to meet the in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, by chang­ing to 12 years of school had neg­a­tive ef­fects. Dur­ing the for­mer 10 year cur­ricu­lum, kids en­rolled in pri­mary school at the age of eight, and were taught how to read, write, add and sub­tract, and mul­ti­ply and di­vide at a higher level than to­day’s sys­tem where kids start school at the age of six.

Kids en­ter­ing school for the first time now strug­gle as teach­ers have the same ex­pec­ta­tions on them as the first graders of the for­mer sys­tem, who were two years older than them when they be­gun school. Some kids en­roll in school at age of four or five even though those are the age for young kids to learn through play.

The sit­u­a­tion in ru­ral Mon­go­lia has been even worse since the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of ed­u­ca­tion is dif­fi­cult com­pared to more cen­tral­ized ar­eas of Mon­go­lia. Be­tween 2007 and 2013, the World Bank funded the Ru­ral Ed­u­ca­tion and De­vel­op­ment (READ) Project. It made learn­ing ma­te­ri­als avail­able in ru­ral Mon­go­lia with over 383 ru­ral pri­mary schools re­ceiv­ing around 160 books each, reach­ing a to­tal of 130,000 stu­dents. Some 3,560 class­room li­braries were es­tab­lished and 4,144 ru­ral pri­mary teach­ers and 383 school di­rec­tors were trained.

The govern­ment knew that the coun­try could sink into a poverty cy­cle, which ed­u­ca­tion plays a vi­tal role in. Low lev­els of ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ments were the cause of poverty and in re­turn, poverty would be caused by a lack of ed­u­ca­tion. There­fore, im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in both ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas will have im­pacts be­yond its im­me­di­ate vicin­ity. The in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion was im­por­tant due to that fact and it also stayed con­sis­tent with Mon­go­lia’s com­mit­ment to achiev­ing the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals.

The ap­proach that the govern­ment took was to en­hance the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in ru­ral pri­mary schools by im­prov­ing the ac­cess to learn­ing ma­te­ri­als, im­prov­ing the use of said ma­te­ri­als and im­prov­ing teach­ers’ skills across the board. These were achieved through the estab­lish­ment of class­room li­braries in schools, kinder­gartens, ed­u­ca­tion cen­ters and dorms across ru­ral ar­eas. Im­prov­ing class con­di­tions and im­ple­ment­ing train­ing pro­grams that teach teach­ing strate­gies for ed­u­ca­tors such as method­olo­gies that help stu­dents at an early age. The changes and im­prove­ments the pro­gram made had a pos­i­tive feed­back from both par­ents and stu­dents alike, and the ex­pan­sion of class­room li­braries was ap­plauded as a step in the right di­rec­tion.

Mon­go­lia has taken steps to im­prove the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas, how­ever, it sim­ply has not been suf­fi­cient. With­out a real and com­plete over­haul of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem/ cur­ricu­lum that meets cur­rent stan­dards, Mon­go­lian schools will still be re­garded as low-grade in­sti­tu­tions. Cur­rently, at pub­lic schools, 40 to 60 stu­dents are bun­dled up in a class.

Still, mile­stones have to be ap­plauded to en­cour­age fur­ther in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

“Be­fore we couldn't get up and move around the class. The class wasn't so fun,” says Jalam­jav, a thrid grader at Dadal soum pri­mary school. “Now we move freely and dis­cuss back and forth. We work to­gether on as­sign­ments. I like it this way.”

N.Enkh­purev, a teacher at Mu­run soum’s pri­mary school, says do­nated books have fos­tered a love for read­ing among her stu­dents. “Stu­dents who never liked to read now sit in the li­brary all day,” she says. “They have now de­vel­oped a habit of read­ing books!”

Photo by G.ARGUUJIN

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