In 1994 UNICEF Mongolia and Save the Children UK piloted mobile ger kindergartens close to herders' summer camps to serve poor, nomadic children who were not enrolled in mainstream kindergartens. Since 2008, the Mongolian Ministry of Education and Science has contributed substantial financial support for the program, paying teacher salaries and meal costs. Local bagh administrations and communities provide additional support, including transportation and heating costs. In addition to implementing the mobile kindergartens, UNICEF focuses on capacity building and educating parents on the importance of enrolling their children in pre-school.
Each mobile kindergarten takes place in a ger, a traditional Mongolian dwelling. These tent structures are easy to build, take down, and move, and operate at a fraction of the cost of regular pre-schools. The ger kindergartens operate in the warm season, traditionally from late May to October. They follow nomadic herder families who move, on average, 6 to 8 times during this period, and stay at each location for 2 to 3 weeks. Kindergartens operate 5 days per week, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. Children are given meals and the gers are equipped with furniture, teaching materials, handbooks, and toys donated by local kindergartens.
The mobile ger kindergartens are part of UNICEF Mongolia's broader early childhood education program which also involves teacher training and collaboration with the government on policy-related issues. UNICEF works with teacher training schools and provides in-service training opportunities, such as an annual week-long workshop to train teachers to work with children in remote areas and manage the mobile ger kindergartens. UNICEF also works with the federal government to develop policy and improve the country's early childhood education program, especially regarding alternative forms that serve hard to reach and disabled students. In 2007, UNICEF helped the government to develop a pre-school education training policy and, in 2008, Mongolia passed the Law on Preschool Education that makes kindergarten compulsory and provides for its alternative forms. Additionally, UNICEF collaborates with local governments and communities to establish their own mobile ger kindergartens.
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CEI approaches in action
In the 2012-2016 Country Program document, UNICEF Mongolia and the Mongolian government identified early childhood education as a key area of focus for the country's development. Along with educational data provided by each province, this document helped UNICEF to identify provinces most in need of mobile ger kindergartens.
In previous years, UNICEF's mobile ger kindergartens have served up to 1,500 children in 5 provinces. Following funding cuts from the government and donors, the program has scaled back and currently operates in only 2 provinces.
Monitoring & Evaluation
In general, monitoring systems in Mongolia are weak and there is no standardized strategy for evaluating the mobile ger kindergartens, though UNICEF is in the process of developing self-assessment tools. Currently, local government and education officials make joint visits to observe the state of the kindergartens and UNICEF interviews parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to discuss how to improve the curriculum. It also administers some practical tests for children in accordance with local education requirements. Since 2010, UNICEF Mongolia has researched how to expand the program in remote areas.