|The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports|
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Part II Analysis
Azerbaijan is an independent Republic of approximately 86,600 km2, situated in the southeastern area of the Caucasus region with the Caspian Sea on the eastern border. It has an administrative structure that includes 5 major cities and 65 districts, including the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan. In 1999, the total population of Azerbaijan was approximately 8 million with 4,610 schools and a total of 1,600,000 students. More than 50% of the population live in urban areas. Formal education consists of 11 years and by law is free and compulsory. Primary education consists of the first 4 years of this period. The population growth rate in Azerbaijan has decreased from an annual rate of 2.0% in 1990 to 0.98% in 1998, however this is not yet reflected in a lower dependency ratio for children. This dependency ratio for children has remained at a high 65% across the decade of the 1990s. The elderly dependency ratio has increased from 18.5% in 1990 to 20.7% in 1998.
A number of issues are relevant to this analytical section since they directly impact on the types of analysis that can be applied to the data. The conflict with Armenia concerning the Nagarno-Karabakh began in 1988 and tensions continue through to the present time. A direct result of the loss of this territory was an influx of refugees and a large number of internally displaced persons, including many school children, an influx that continued well into the middle of the 1990s. This, together with the significant inflow of returning emigrants following the collapse of the former Soviet Union reduces the meaningfulness of a traditional cohort analysis for the majority of the decade. Since the number of refugees and returning emigrants was not quantified in accordance with age and gender, it is not possible to separate these from students belonging to the original cohorts, hence the problem of applying a traditional cohort analysis.
For the data analysis for the EFA 2000 report, it was decided to collect the data on a national basis rather than a district basis and wherever possible to provide data separately for urban and rural areas. Information is collected from schools and early childhood development institutions every year using specially designed forms. There are also forms used by District Education Offices to consolidate district-wide data. These forms are sent to both the Ministry of Education and the State Statistics Committee. Financial information is collected by District Finance Offices and sent to both the Ministry of Finance and the State Statistics Committee. For the EFA 2000 assessment process, the State Statistics Committee was the lead agency for data collection.
In this report, the following definitions were used:
Urban: Schools within the 5 major cities of Azerbaijan and the central towns of each of the 65 districts; and
Rural: Villages and other settlements of the 65 districts of the country. Within each district, this represents all areas outside of the district centre.
Data has been collected for the period 1990 to 1998 and analyses presented in this report are based on this period unless otherwise indicated.
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is provided for the age group 3 to 5 years. It takes the form of kindergartens and preparatory classes. Besides, there are nursery schools for children of 3 years and less; alongside with 4 and 5 year old children, some 6 and 7-year olds also attend kindergartens. Preparatory classes are provided for children of ethnic minority groups. It should be noted that while the formal age for entry to primary school is 6 years of age, children who have not reached the age of 6 by the beginning of September must wait until the next school year for entry. Furthermore, the starting age for primary education was 7 years during the Soviet era and some families have continued to follow this tradition.
Provision of early childhood programs is the responsibility of the public system and as of 1999, there is no private sector involvement in early childhood development programs. This dependence on the public sector for provision is a result of experience and funding models derived from the Soviet era.
Demographics of Early Childhood Education
The official age range for early childhood education programs is 3 to 5 years of age. However, there are significant numbers of older students who are also enrolled in these programs. The age structure of children participating in these programs is shown in Figure 1.1. The first characteristic of this structure is that no differences exist between boys and girls with an almost identical age structure. The second feature of the profile over the time-period is the reduction in the proportion of 7-year old students participating in early childhood development. While this proportion peaked at 7% during 1992 and 1993, it has stabilized at about 1% following the change (from 7 to 6 years) in the starting age of primary school. The proportion of 6-year old students enrolled in early childhood development peaked at 27% of all enrolments in 1995 but has since reduced to 24.5% of all enrolments. Some 6-year old children attend early childhood development programs since they attain the age of 6 years after the beginning (September) of the school year. However, this situation complicates the meaningful measurement of net enrolment ratios for primary since a significant number of 6-year old students are enrolled in early childhood development rather than in formal primary education. This would suggest that traditional measures of NERs are likely to underestimate the real proportion of children attending formal schooling.
The overall growth of enrolments in early childhood education programs is shown in Figure 1.2. The decline in the number of students enrolled in early childhood development programs can be clearly seen from this figure. The slight increase in enrolments in 1993 can be attributed to the inflow of refugees and internally displaced persons following the Armenian aggression. This overall decline in enrolments in early childhood development over the period 1990 to 1998 is similar to the experience of many countries comprising the former Soviet Union.
It can also be seen from Figure 1.2 that girls are disadvantaged in access to early childhood development with significantly fewer places in early childhood development than for boys. This difference in enrolments was about 15,000 places in the early 1990s, 11,000 in 1995/96 and had shrunk to 8,000 places in 1998. Of interest is the likelihood that this decrease in the gap between boys and girls access to early childhood development will be sustained over the next years.
This decline in enrolments in early childhood development over the 1990s is increasing what is already a significant shortfall in places in early childhood development programs. The extent of this problem is demonstrated in Figure 1.3. It can be seen that while the population of 3 year-old children was reduced in 1997, this was a temporary reduction with an increase being seen in 1998 of some 0.9%. The population of young children has been influenced by changes in fertility rates and by the inflow of refugees and internally displaced persons following the Armenian aggression.
Figure 1.3 also demonstrates the same disparities in access by girls and boys to early childhood development that was discussed above. Of interest is the variation in access by boys and girls to early childhood development programs between rural and urban areas and data concerning this is discussed below.
This decline in participation in early childhood development programs is due to a number of factors. Formerly some enterprises, offices and organizations operated early childhood development programs in which were enrolled the children of their employees. But due to the financial difficulties of the transition period the early childhood development programs operating under the auspices of those enterprises have been closed. In addition, following the lowering or cease of production, unemployment has increased with one or two unemployed parents now at home. As a result, the children in these families are not sent to participate in early childhood development programs.
Gross Enrolment Ratios
The proportion of children attending early childhood development programs can be expressed as a gross enrolment ratio and this is shown in Figure 1.4. Not surprisingly, the figure shows the same downward trends as discussed earlier.
Gross enrolment ratios for participation in early childhood development programs can be used to assess the differences between access in rural and urban areas and this is shown in Figure 1.5. Figure 1.5 clearly shows the lower access to early childhood development programs for children in rural areas. The only consolation for rural children is that the decline in GER for early childhood development programs has decreased at a lower average annual rate (-3.5%) than the GER in urban areas (-4.8%). The overall decline in the GER early childhood development participants was due to the closure of many offices and enterprises, the majority of which were located in urban areas.
Differences in gender parity for rural and urban areas are shown in Figure 1.6. It can be seen that while overall access to early childhood development is significantly lower in rural areas than in urban areas, girls in rural areas are not as disadvantaged as their peers from urban areas. In particular, gender parity in urban areas has improved significantly in 1998 over 1997.
It can be seen from Figure 1.7 that the financial situation also caused a number of early childhood education institutions to close. There was a particular severe retraction of institutions in rural areas in 1994 although since that time, the reduction of early childhood education institutions has continued at a similar rate for urban and rural areas. In 1998, more serious measures have been taken to reverse this trend.
New Entrants to Primary School with Early Childhood Development Experience
Figure 1.8 shows the trend across the period for the proportion of children entering primary schooling having had some experience of an early childhood development program of some type. Data are only available at the national level and no gender desegregation is available. It can be seen that the proportion has decreased over the period although the significant drop in 1993 has been reversed. In the mid 1990s, a gradual increase in the proportion was evident but this was not sustained in 1997. However, there was a further improvement in 1998 (over 1997) and it remains to be seen if this improvement can be sustained.
The major issue facing early childhood development in Azerbaijan is to reverse the negative trend of provision and participation. Total enrolments and GER have both declined significantly over the period and in the latest data available (1998) there is little evidence that this decline is being challenged. Only among girls, has there been a reversal of the constant decline in enrolments and GER. Provision and participation in early childhood development in rural areas is particularly low (GER of less than 10% since 1994) compared to urban areas (GER of almost 25%). A further issue relates to gender parity. In all areas of the country, fewer girls than boys attend early childhood education programs and this disparity is particularly significant in urban areas.
It is clear that participation in early childhood development programs will not increase without additional funding, presumably from outside of the public sector. Private sector involvement in education in Azerbaijan is virtually unknown, a result of the philosophy inherited during the Soviet era. However, for early childhood development programs to be significantly expanded, privatized enterprises will need to be involved. A top priority should be to develop a model of private sector involvement that is appropriate for Azerbaijan.
The efficiency of early childhood development programs has improved over the 1990 to 1998 period. The number of 7-year old children enrolled in programs has reduced from 7% to 1% although the number of 6-year olds continues at about 25% of all enrolments.
Demography of Primary Education
Formal education occurs over 11 years with the first 4 years being described as "primary education". Thus, this analysis is concerned with developments in grades 1 to 4 over the time period 1990 to 1998.
The formal starting age for primary education is 6 years with 9 year-olds predominating in the final grade 4 of basic education. However, there are large numbers of students entering primary education at 7 years of age, although this proportion has declined significantly over the period, and this is shown in Figure 2.1. Although there were significant differences between males and females in the proportion of 7-year olds entering primary school in 1990, since 1995 the proportion of 7-year old children for both boys and girls has stabilized at approximately 12%.
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