Primary education in Mongolia
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!”