Public Defender Appeals to Parliament and Government on Amendments to Bill on Early and Pre-school Upbringing and Education

On February 3, 2016, the Public Defender addressed the Speaker of Parliament with a proposal to make amendments to the bill on early and pre-school upbringing and education. The amendments were prepared by the Public Defender’s Office on the basis of the results of the monitoring carried out in the pre-school institutions, analysis of international legal standards and surveys.

The Parliament approved the bill in the first reading, but they did not take into consideration the Public Defender’s most important recommendations.

The Public Defender's monitoring in pre-school institutions in 2014 identified a number of systemic flaws. Problems were found in proper development of training system for early and preschool education teachers, introduction of unified standards in pre-school education and compulsory teaching methodology at the normative level, close cooperation with local self-governments in implementation of retraining of personnel of pre-school institutions, formation of educational groups and creation of children's needs-based training infrastructure. The monitoring also showed that 70 percent of the staff of pre-school establishments exerts psychological pressure on children, while physical punishment is acceptable for 40 percent.

Due to the given situation, the Public Defender believes that bill on early and pre-school upbringing and education is a highly important and innovative document. It defines commitments of the central and local governments in the area of early and pre-school upbringing and education. However, the Public Defender considers that the mentioned law fails to provide full protection of the rights of children without reflecting the following vital considerations:

National system of training and re-training of teachers of pre-school education/upbringing - the bill does not define agencies responsible for preparation and professional training of teachers. According to the studies carried out at the national level, establishment of early and pre-school education is poorly performed in the country. For effective implementation of this right it is necessary to expand involvement of children in early education system and improvement of the quality of teaching through improving the educational qualifications of the personnel[1]. One of the mechanisms of the above-mentioned is development and introduction of national system of preparation and training of teachers. The bill should take into account that the Ministry of Education (Article 8) or the Government (Article 9) will develop and approve a unified system of preparation and re-training of teachers, execution of which will be responsibility of both the central and local authorities.

System of monitoring of standards - the bill obliges a number of Ministries to develop national standards and technical regulations and submit them to the Government for approval, though the document does not obliges the Ministries to monitor their spheres.

In a situation where violation of sanitary-hygienic and food organizational rules in the early and pre-school facilities is rather a problematic issue[2] and carries increased public interest, the bill does not include a special provision for ensuring targeted control of the rules.

According to Article 7 of the bill, the Ministry of Education and Science will develop professional standards for early and pre-school education teachers. We believe that systematic monitoring of the implementation of the mentioned standard should be carried out by the presented Ministry.

The above rule also applies to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, which according to the bill, must work out technical regulations of buildings, infrastructure and material-technical base. In this part, it is important that monitoring of the implementation of the technical regulations be carried out by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.

The date when the bill should take effect- the third important issue, which should be regulated by the draft law, is the date when which the law takes effect.

According to Article 27 of the bill, the law shall come into effect (excluding exceptions) in September of 2017. The current legislation does not provide for effective mechanisms for regulating early pre-school upbringing and education before the bill takes effect. In addition, there is increased public interest in the issues that must be regulated by the bill. At the same time, by the technical assistance from UNICEF, it is planned to complete working on documents of technical regulations and relevant standards for activating the law by September 2016, which gives us the hope for reasonable expectation that the law may take effect this year. Specifically, according to the Public Defender, the bill on early and pre-school upbringing and education should take effect in September 2016, instead of September 2017.

The Public Defender believes that the volume of pre-school upbringing and education groups and the proportionality of teachers to the number of children should be reviewed as well, as provided in Article 22.

Given all the above, the Public Defender calls on the Government and Parliament to consider the aforementioned recommendations during consideration of the bill in the second reading, which will make it possible to introduce a unified system of pre-school establishments and will promote unimpeded realization of child's right to education and decent development.

[1] UNICEF, “Comprehensive costing and finance strategies for the early and pre-school education in Georgia”, 2012.

2 Georgian Public Defender’s Parliamentary Report on human rights situation in Georgia in 2014.

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