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January 2000



 Introduction - The EFA vision and a region in transition

 I.Economic change and mobilising resources for education

Slow and uneven economic recovery
Public spending on education
Household welfare and private resources for education

 II. Assessing trends in education since 1990

Trends in access to education

    Early childhood development programmes
    Enrolments in basic education
    Enrolments in upper secondary education

Implications for educational quality

    Teachers, textbooks and school conditions
    Monitoring learning achievement

Implications for equity in education

    Disparities by household income
    Disparities by regions

Groups disadvantaged in access to education

 III.Policy priorities beyond EFA 2000

Maintaining educational reform under fiscal constraints
Improving the quality and relevance of education


In the light of the World Declaration on Education for All, the first priority goal is to enable every person – child, youth and adult – to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs, (and) ensure them a high quality education adjusted to the demands of the 21st century. (Poland, 1999)

 Almost ten years ago, participants from 155 countries took part in the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) held in Jomtien, Thailand. With the signing of the World Declaration on Education for All, they pledged to extend access to quality basic education and early childhood development programmes, to improve learning achievement, literacy and to take steps to promoting life-long learning (EFA Forum, 1996). As the decade draws to a close, the world gathers in Dakar to take part in the Education for All 2000 assessment which will examine the state of education, assess the impact of changes and renew policy goals for the next decade. This report on education trends and policies in the Central and Eastern European region complements a separate report on Western Europe and North America which together represent one of the six EFA regional groupings.

 The Jomtien conference followed close on the heels of another major historical event that would have dramatic implications for Central and Eastern Europe. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The most potent symbol of the Cold War’s division of Europe was gone. Few could have predicted the scale of the changes that would sweep through the former socialist bloc over the next decade, leading to the rapid transformation of economic, social and political institutions, and the re-emergence of armed conflict in Europe. Any assessment of the changes in education across the region must be seen in terms of both the opportunities and the constraints accompanying these truly historic developments. For example, of the twenty countries covered in this report, only nine existed as sovereign states in 1989.

 Central and Eastern European educational systems face the challenges of the next century while at the same time undergoing massive social and economic change. And as they adapt to more democratic societies, market-oriented economies and closer economic and social integration into European structures, the potential contributions of education, using the term in its broadest sense, are indeed great. Equitable educational systems and good learning outcomes can play a central role in building human capital and thus help to rebuild the economies shattered by the shift from a planned system and provide the relevant skills needed to support national and European competitiveness in a period of rapid technological change and globalisation of markets. Progressive curricula have the potential to strengthen democratic values, to foster social cohesion and to promote participation in the construction of civil societies that are slowly being nurtured. Education is also crucial to the self-development of children and youth, providing them with the skills for a better life and to help them to make informed choices about new types of risks that have emerged during the 1990s.

The Education for All movement serves to enable this process by:

  • Providing a framework that encompasses a broad range of educational goals throughout the life-cycle that promote self development, livelihood skills and social participation.
  • Mobilising the public and challenging policy-makers to improve access to education, quality and learning outcomes even in countries where enrolments are practically universal and in countries where the social agenda has been largely overshadowed by concerns about macroeconomic stability.
  • Providing a forum for the sharing of experiences across regions as well as on a global level. National policy-makers can learn from the many examples of new policy approaches presented in the EFA national reports and regional meetings.

 The report seeks to assess how well these twenty countries have met the goals of EFA as described in the opening citation from the Polish national report. Since 1990, how well have countries enabled access to educational opportunities for all? How well they have ensured quality education that is relevant to the rapidly changing demands of the 21st century? These questions are examined first by showing how economic and institutional changes have affected the ability of governments, communities and parents to mobilise resources for education. Then the report assesses the main trends in education, from enrolment trends to the implications for education quality, learning outcomes and equity. In conclusion, the report presents a survey of policy priorities that will help to promote the vision of Education for All beyond the year 2000.

I. Economic change and mobilising resources for education

 In the 1990s, Central and Eastern European countries have faced a double challenge: protecting the public education achievements of the past while reforming the system, i.e. recasting school curricula, updating teaching methods and educational materials, and adapting school management to the new rules and goals of society. They confront this challenge with diminished public resources, as large declines in output and government revenues during the transition have created severe fiscal constraints. This has influenced the potential to mobilise not only public but private resources for education. Growing differences in the levels of per capita household income and greater inequality in how income is distributed means that parents have fewer financial resources for their children’s education.

Slow and uneven economic recovery

 The economic impact of transition is most dramatically reflected by large falls in production over the 1990s. In terms of measured output, real GDP fell sharply during the 1990s, especially in the countries of the former USSR. As shown in Figure 1, the path to economic recovery has been smoother in Central Europe than elsewhere. Most countries hit the bottom in the mid-1990s and by 1998 only Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia recorded higher levels of GDP than in 1990, although the Czech Republic and Hungary were just below 1990 levels.

Figure 1. Cumulative change in GDP, 1998 *

 The sustainability of economic recovery varies widely across the region. Several countries have faced renewed economic difficulties through the late 1990s. For example, Bulgaria experienced large GDP declines in both 1997 and 1998 and the level of output in Romania fell by 8 per cent in 1997. Prospects for economic growth in Russia were dashed by the August 1998 currency crisis, which has also effected potential for growth in neighbouring countries. Ukraine has yet to post positive GDP growth figures, falling in 1998 to 39 per cent of the 1990 level. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development projects that GDP will decline in eight countries in 1999 (EBRD, 1999). Thus, while more stable economic conditions help to facilitate educational reform, in many countries, economic recovery is still not a reality.

 What else does this mean for education? First, declines in output, the reduced administrative capacity of the state and the growing importance of informal sector activity have translated into lower government revenues. Government systems have been disrupted in countries affected by war, and taxation systems across the region have failed to keep pace with the change to a market-oriented system.. Tax revenue as a share of GDP has dropped steadily since the early 1990s. Revenue declines have put pressure on government expenditures, which have generally dropped as a share of GDP. The drop in the proportion of government expenditure of GDP has been largest in countries that have experienced the greatest falls in GDP itself. Thus, while the expenditure share was well over 40 per cent and remained stable in Hungary and Slovenia from 1990 to 1997, expenditure dropped by half in Bulgaria and by more than a quarter in Lithuania. Falling government revenues represent a threat to spending on social services, namely education. This is particularly worrisome in countries where the declines have been particularly large.

 As noted in a number of the EFA 2000 national reports, the decentralisation of social expenditures has had a substantial effect on available resources for education (Poland, 1999; Russia, 1999; Romania, 1999). Several Central European countries had introduced greater decentralisation of educational finance and governance prior to 1990, but across much of the region there have been new efforts to devolve responsibilities from central governments to local levels. Thus, local governments have been given increasing responsibility for education provision from pre-primary to secondary schooling. In many cases, schools themselves have been assigned considerable authority. However, in many instances local authorities, particularly in rural areas are not allocated the financial resources to meet these new responsibilities and have few means to raise additional funds. Often teachers’ wage (typically representing the greatest share of the educational budget) are still fixed by central authorities and leave schools with little autonomy over budgetary decisions (Klugman, 1997; Barrow, 1997).

 In many countries, a majority of expenditure on education is the responsibility of regional governments, which themselves vary greatly in terms of fiscal capacity. Measured in terms of expenditure responsibilities, regions are often responsible for a majority of spending on education and in some countries there are growing disparities in the ability of different regions of a country to finance educational programmes (Poland, 1999).

Public spending on education

 As shown, the economic impact on the potential to mobilise public resources for education has been striking. Not only are public resources for education now far smaller than in 1990, but they are being divided less equally and continue to decline in many countries.

 As shown in Figure 2, education spending relative to GDP, although low by OECD standards, was generally maintained in the 1990s. The share of resources devoted to education in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary declined, while in most other countries, the share has increased. Moreover the share of expenditure on basic education generally remained stable relative to other educational levels. From one perspective, this could be interpreted as a positively, in that many countries have been able to maintain the share of available resources devoted to education, especially basic education.

Figure 2. Education expenditure as a share of GDP, 1990 and 1997 *

 However, the share of resources going to education is coming from a public budget that has been greatly diminished. Faced by large falls in national income and by reduced tax revenues, state support for education has been sharply reduced in real terms. Figure 3 shows the extent of the decline. Real spending decreased in real terms by 20 to 75 per cent between 1990 and 1996 in countries where data are available.

Figure 3. Real expenditure on education, 1996 *

 In light of decreasing real expenditure levels, the distribution of spending has become an even more important issue. Inconsistent reforms in the mechanism of funding education have resulted in further inequalities in education finance. This is often the result of central governments devolving responsibilities to local authorities without allocating control over adequate fiscal resources. This has contributed to widening regional differentiation in per pupil expenditures.

 In response to declining resources, the education sector has adjusted spending in several ways. First, in the marketisation of services and cost-recovery measures, by lower real wages for teachers and others in the educational sector, by the emergence of non-state provision of educational services, by sharp declines in capital expenditures, and difficulties in the production and distribution of textbooks and other learning materials.

Household welfare and private resources for education

 Coupled with the lack of revenue to finance state social policy expenditure, there is a decreasing ability of households and individuals to cover educational costs themselves. The greatest need is in countries where armed conflict has broken out and where there are large numbers of refugees and displaced persons (see Box 1 for more about the impact of conflict in Former Yugoslavia on school conditions). But, across the entire region, the rapid emergence of open unemployment, falling wage levels and increased poverty has led to growing divide between the rich and poor.

 Overall, the number of jobs lost in the region since 1990 has been in the millions. Employment has fallen in all 20 countries, often dramatically. The number of registered unemployed rose sharply in the early 1990s then again following the first waves of economic reform in 1993-94. In Russia alone, the number of unemployed grew from two to eight million between 1994 and 1997 (Russia, 1999).

 As shown by Figure 4, real wage levels have fallen substantially in many countries. This has been associated with labour market adjustments in countries where unemployment levels are low relative to the scale of output decline. As a result, levels of labour productivity and earnings have fallen significantly. Most countries have yet to recover from the sharp wage reduction that followed the price liberalisation in the early 1990s. In 1998, in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Moldova, the real wage was still only around a third of its 1990 level. The official wage figures even understate the actual extent of decline, insofar as in some countries, wages go unpaid, often for extended periods.

Figure 4. Real wage index, 1998 *

 How these earnings are divided among those employed has grown more unequal. Earnings inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, has risen in every country where data are available. The coefficient for earnings rose by three-quarters in Russia and doubled in Romania. In general, it rose by one-third in the countries in Central and South East Europe and by up to one-half in countries of the former USSR (Micklewright, 1999).

 The net effect of income declines and higher inequality has been a sharp increase in the prevalence and depth of poverty. Household level surveys in the region have shown that the risk of poverty has been correlated with the number of minor-aged children or dependants in a household. Thus, families with more children run a greater risk of poverty than other types of households.

 Families in the countries most affected by falling public expenditure and high inflation find that their incomes, including traditional cash benefits, are increasingly unable to cover basic household necessities. Savings may have been diminished or even eliminated by inflation. Parents needing to earn additional money (e.g., second-jobs, work on private plots) have less time to monitor their children’s development or participate in school-related activities. And there is scattered evidence of child labour in certain countries as families struggle to make ends meet.

 What was the impact of these massive changes in public and private resources? How did they impact enrolment rates and education quality? Which groups have been disadvantaged as a result? What has it meant for Education for All in practice?

II. Assessing trends in education since 1990

 Education trends, in terms of access and quality, have changed rather markedly since 1990 across the region as a whole. This section first looks at changes in enrolment trends as a measure of access to education and then looks more closely at the main inputs to educational quality - teacher conditions, curricula and the school environment and the attendant implications for learning achievement and equity.

 Identifying and interpreting education indicators during the 1990s based on data included in the EFA 2000 national reports presents some difficulties. Some countries were unable to estimate accurate and reliable education indicators based on population breakdowns by age. For example, some countries experienced large population movements in or out of their borders, coupled with weak population register systems that often are unable to reflect these movements. In conflict zones, the collection of education data if not suppressed was not logistically possible. Other types of data have also been difficult to collect, especially accurate financial data, particularly during periods of high inflation and due to the change to new currencies, often several times in the space of several years. There remain many challenges in measuring the equity and efficiency of educational systems and improvements in this area, particularly as they relate to emerging policy issues, are urgently needed.

Trends in access to education

 The legacy of the socialist educational system included notable achievements: wide access to basic education, a high degree of gender equity, high literacy rates and positive results in certain aspects of learning achievement. At the same time, there is substantial evidence that shows there were disparities in access preceding compulsory schooling. At the pre-primary level, for example, children in rural areas had significantly lower access to early childhood development programmes than children in urban areas. And despite policies aimed at providing educational opportunities for children from "worker" families, there was still marked stratification by social class in higher education, a feature common to traditional European education systems.

 This section looks at enrolment trends in early childhood development programmes, basic and upper secondary educational programmes since 1990. In light of these changes, this section then discusses the implications for education quality and equity.

Early childhood development programmes

 One of the key elements of the EFA vision is the importance of life-long learning, beginning with early childhood development programmes (EFA Forum, 1996). A wide range of studies have shown the beneficial developmental outcomes and cost-effectiveness of investment in pre-school programmes. For example, studies that show participation in early childhood development programmes improved children’s later school and adult achievements. ECD programmes have also been shown to be an effective investment in addressing the effects of socio-economic and gender-related inequities.

 In Central and Eastern Europe, ECD programmes are typically divided into two categories. Nurseries, often supervised by health ministries, offer custodial day-care services for children under two years old and often serve as an alternative to parental leave. The coverage of these programmes varies widely across Central and Eastern Europe, but they have been utilised to a greater extent in the former USSR. Kindergartens, supervised by education ministries, offer daytime childcare for children aged 3 to 5/6 years and provide social and cognitive development programmes. Both services were provided entirely through formal institutions and were often based at the parents’ workplace.

 Enrolment rates in ECD programmes (hereafter referring to programmes for children aged 3 to 5/6 years) generally declined across the region. In absolute terms, one and a half million less children were enrolled in 1997 if 1990 enrolment rates would have remained stable.

 Three different patterns in enrolment trends are discernible. As shown in Figure 5, Central European countries and Slovenia were able to maintain high rates of participation throughout the 1990s. A pattern common to Baltic and South European has been a sharp decline in enrolments at the nadir of the economic crisis followed by a recovery. While enrolment levels in these countries have now recovered to 1990 levels, this likely reflects the declines in child cohort size rather than actual increases in ECD provision. The third pattern has been one of continuous declines in enrolment rates. This has been evident in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Albania. Enrolment rates fell by about half in Moldova and Albania.

Figure 5. Pre-primary net enrolment rates, 1990, 1994 and 1998 *

 The decline in enrolments has resulted in the deferral of entry into pre-primary and the greater likelihood that children may not attend any type of pre-school programme. In Bulgaria, the share of children entering first grade having participated in ECD programmes dropped from 85 to 62 per cent from 1989 to 1998 (Bulgaria, 1999). In Latvia, the share fell rapidly from 78 to 57 per cent between 1996 and 1998 (Latvia, 1999). At the same time, in countries where at least one year of pre-school is compulsory, rates have remained stable. In Poland, where overall enrolment rates are markedly lower than in neighbouring countries, the share of children having participated in any ECD programme remained stable at about 96 per cent between 1990 and 1998 (Poland, 1999).

 As noted in many of the EFA 2000 national reports, the factors underlying the declines in enrolments reflect both changes in provision and changes in demand. In countries of the former USSR, the divestiture of social assets by former state enterprises led to the closure of many pre-schools. In Russia alone, 27,600 pre-schools were closed from 1990 to 1997 (Russia, 1999). In several countries, pre-schools were kept open but transferred to local authorities. This has had important implications for levels of public subsidy, user fees and the quality of services.

 But higher fees and their perceptions about the quality of care also influenced parental decisions. The willingness of parents and their ability to pay the increasing cost of childcare became more limited in light of both declining real incomes and the perception of low-quality services. This led to a fall in demand, rising available capacity among operating institutions and thus created less interest on part of the state to commit further resources.

Enrolments in basic education

 During the 1990s, there is evidence of only slight deterioration in the coverage of the basic school system. As shown in Figure 6, enrolment rates changed only slightly from 1990 levels. In the past, compulsory school enrolment was practically universal, and it was taken for granted that all children were in school. Recent figures may be less reliable, however, as the monitoring and enforcement of compulsory school attendance has been weakened.

Figure 6. Basic school enrolment rates, 1990 and 1997 *

 This is partly reflected by basic enrolment rates that can be disaggregated into primary (ages 7-10) and lower secondary (ages 11-14/15) levels. While primary-level coverage has generally improved across the region, lower secondary enrolment rates have declined in a number of countries, including Estonia, Lithuania and Russia.

 Although it is not possible to disaggregate enrolment data by the age of the child, there is evidence that the greater number of children not attending in these countries are near completion of basic education. While citing the difficulties in estimating the scale of the problem, several countries reported that non-completion of basic schooling is a growing trend, especially among 13 to 15 year-olds (Romania, 1999; Latvia, 1999; Lithuania, 1999).

The problem of early school leaving is a long-lasting and grave one. The possibilities to solve it with the efforts of the education system are restricted. The real solution in hidden in overcoming the crisis economic situation, as well as in limiting economic stratification, which drives towards significant educational disparities. (Bulgaria, 1999).

 The opportunity costs of education, as opposed to contributing to household income via the informal sector or in home production, have become too high, particularly among rural populations.

In rural areas, lower secondary enrolments are lower than in urban areas because agricultural work has become more labour-intensive (with the break-up of collectives) and children are engaged in household labour in…subsistence farming. (Romania, 1999).

 This was noted particularly in Southeast Europe and countries of the former Yugoslavia. In Moldova, 80 per cent of the 4,700 cases of truancy recorded in 1999 came from rural areas (Moldova, 1999). Although the absolute number may understate the extent of the problem, the large share of rural youth in the figure is striking.

Enrolments in upper secondary education

 Upper secondary education, which includes general secondary schooling and vocational/technical training, has been marked by overall declines in enrolments and massive shifts across the different types of programmes. The main trends in upper secondary education across the region can be summarised as: the partial collapse of vocational/technical and increased pressure on general secondary; the (re-) introduction of elite streams of education; the emergence of non-state and private educational programmes

 The highly specialised vocational/technical training programmes have been considerably weakened by the decline of the industrial enterprises and the withdrawal of ministerial funding from educational programmes. In most countries the once highly specialised system of vocational training has faced large declines in overall enrolment rates and has attracted a dwindling number of new students. This is due primarily to supply factors, although demand has likewise declined, as a response to perceptions of education quality, relevance of coursework and changes in the labour market.

 The heightened competition for places in upper secondary programmes was noted in several reports, particularly in the Baltic countries. In 1997/98 in Lithuania, there were 355 applicants for every first year student place in higher education, 145 applicants for every place in general secondary schools and 113 for every place in vocational schools (Lithuania, 1999). And entry is little guarantee of learning success – attrition rates are also substantial. In the same year in Lithuania about one in ten students left studies in vocational or general secondary schools (Lithuania, 1999).

 The diminished status of vocational/technical education has partly underlies the expansion of general secondary enrolments, especially in Central European and Baltic countries. Often enrolment rates in general secondary have increased as quickly as vocational/technical enrolments have fallen. However, the growth in general secondary enrolments has been much slower in other countries. They have increased in Russia only recently and have not increased in Ukraine, despite large declines in vocational/technical programmes.

Implications for educational quality

 Since 1990, public spending on education has varied considerably across Central and Eastern Europe countries and has been influenced not only by the prolonged recession but also by changes in how schools are financed. In light of these resource changes the near-universal provision of basic education seems to have been protected. However, as noted in many of the EFA 2000 national reports, maintaining wide access to basic education has come at the expense of educational quality.

 In real terms, the declines in expenditures on education have been considerable. Thus, while relative spending and basic enrolment rates have remained stable, real expenditures per pupil in basic education have dropped sharply in most countries. This decline in resources has been adjusted on quality within the system rather than in terms of less "quantity," or narrower access to basic education.

Teachers, textbooks and school conditions

 Access to school relates to children possessing the opportunity to learn, but educational quality contributes to actual learning achievement. Measurable inputs that comprise education quality include teaching staff, educational materials and school conditions. In addition, in many of countries, there has been a long tradition of providing extra-curricular or ancillary services, such as full-day supervision or school meal provision. These services represent an important part of the social support function of the educational system.

 Data on the links between education quality and student outcomes in the region are scarce, Yet the quality of teachers, learning materials and school conditions are strongly associated with success in learning outcomes.

Deterioration in education quality (has been) reflected by schools in poor condition, insufficient number of teaching staff due to decline in salaries and declining status of the profession, (and the) insufficient supply of learning materials. (Romania, 1999)

 Teachers are central to the reform process and they represent key players in ensuring education quality as well as in the implementation of reforms, such as the introduction of new curricula and teaching methods. However, during the 1990s, conditions for teachers have worsened measurably. Teachers’ wages declined in real value, in several countries, faster than wages fell in other sectors. In some countries, teachers face long delays in the payment of their wages. In Russia, the length of these delays were from 3 to 10 months (Russia, 1999).

 The low prestige of the teaching profession has directly influenced the quality of education provision in two ways. The low salaries and prestige of the teaching profession imply that the best teachers will leave the school at the first opportunity, and that qualified young people will not be attracted to the profession. This has already led to shortages of public school teachers in particular fields such as foreign languages and computer science.

 Those that remain in schools are compelled to look for second jobs and/or other means to support their income. Often school administrators and teachers have formally and informally imposed fees on students for tutoring, special classes, extracurricular activities. While allowing teachers the opportunity to supplant low wages, this creates the environment for greater inequity within the school as most families are unable to pay for such services.

…the majority of teachers are to spend their time to search additional earnings… (has)…affected negatively the quality of teaching. They have less time for individual development, studying of new sources of educational information, performance of additional measures for increase of achievements of students – additional tests, lessons of interest. (Ukraine, 1999).

 In most of the region, textbooks are supposed to be provided free of charge. However, the shortage of basic textbooks and educational materials is noted in many of the EFA 2000 national reports (Lithuania, 1999; Russia, 1999; Bulgaria, 1999). The textbook issue has been complicated by disruptions in the trade network and the sharp rise in paper prices. The ability to plan and budget the large-scale textbook production has been hampered by high rates of inflation and by breakdowns in the trade networks. As a result, access to materials has declined and the quality of the present stock of textbooks has worsened.

 There is greater choice in the types of textbooks as the number of different textbooks introduced has increased. The greater choice reflects efforts to marketise the textbook sector and to incorporate new curricula. However, the number of textbooks has not kept up with demand. In response, pupils either continue to use the old textbooks or develop sharing schemes with other students. In Moldova, a system of leasing textbooks is in use, as funds cover only 30-40 per cent of textbook needs (Moldova, 1999). In Russia, there have been particular difficulties in supplying children in correctional institutions and in early vocational training with needed learning materials (Russia, 1999).The effect on education outcomes is likely strong, as noted by teachers themselves. As part of the 1995 TIMSS survey, a majority of 8th-grade teachers interviewed in Latvia, Lithuania and Russia felt that shortages of student and teacher educational materials seriously impeded their ability to teach (Vari, 1997).

 Finally, public spending on the building of new schools as well as the maintenance of current stock has diminished to unsustainable levels. As in some areas the educational infrastructure was in poor condition prior to 1990, the demand for capital repairs has risen dramatically. For example, the condition of schools in Moldova deteriorated sharply. Between 1997/98 and 1998/99 the share of schools requiring repairs increased from about a third to one half of all schools (Moldova, 1999).

When rural localities are (without electricity) for 20 (out of) 24 hours, we can’t talk about (the) efficiency of the training and educational process. (Moldova, 1999)

Box 1. School conditions in conflict regions

The end of communism also blew the lid off ethnic tensions that had been simmering for decades, if not centuries. The armed conflict that broke out in Former Yugoslavia has left virtually no country in the region entirely unaffected as many have received refugees and provide emergency help and basic services at a time when their own budgets are already overstretched.


The impact of war has severely disrupted the education of hundreds of thousands of children from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Kosovo and its effects are still felt by refugees and internally displaced families. Most of the educational infrastructure in Bosnia-Herzegovina was destroyed or damaged (Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1999). By 1994, 35 per cent of the kindergartens in Croatia, for example, had been damaged or even razed to the ground (Croatia, 1999). Schools in war-torn areas are, too often, the targets of violence. The sheer danger of getting to school is a deterrent. Even in areas not directly affected by conflict, schools have been used to house refugees and displaced people. A UNICEF assessment of schools in Kosovo in September 1999 found that:

  • 45 per cent of schools were substantially damaged or destroyed (assessment covered 783 of total 1,000 schools in all 30 municipalities)
  • 668 schools surveyed need repairs (from some damage to destroyed), including 135 schools that need to be totally rebuilt
  • Water and sanitation facilities, already in poor condition, further deteriorated during the war.

In addition to rebuilding the educational infrastructure, it has also been necessary to adapt educational provision to take into account large population movements. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is now home to more than half a million refugees (the largest refugee population in Europe) (UNICEF 1999b).

 Unlike with kindergartens and vocational schools, there has been little general evidence of rationalisation in the number of basic schools. Although, the network of basic schools continues to contract slowly on account of the reorganisation of primary and lower secondary rural schools. The average number of students per school and the relatively high share of children learning in multi-shift educational schemes have not changed greatly during the 1990s.

 While teaching staff, educational materials and school conditions are integral to school quality, adjustment has also been reflected by declining provision of extra-curricular activities and school support services, such as meal provision. Extra-curricular services filled an important gap for children of households where both parents worked or where parental supervision was limited.

 The number of students in full-day supervision has dropped across the region. The declines in service utilisation have been influenced not only by cutbacks in provision but by marketisation of state programmes and the prohibitive costs which have been passed on to households. The decrease in demand is partly due to the high cost of meals which are provided as part of the programme (Romania, 1999).

 The same patterns are evident in the provision of school meals. The impact of early childhood nutrition on future success in primary school as been reported in a number of studies. In the transition families have been less able to ensure proper nutrition at home. At the same time, the introduction of cost recovery in the provision of school meals has led to declines in the provision of school meals across the region. An important factor in this decline was the inability of families to pay the meal costs. Thus, those children that may be most in need of school-provided nutrition may be excluded.

Monitoring learning achievement

The question of quality in learning is central to the Education for All assessment, however it represents an area that is difficult to measure and indeed represents one of the major data gaps. Earlier sections pointed to changes in available resources, enrolments and school conditions as proxies for changes in educational quality. Ideally we would want to measure quality in the effectiveness of the educational system - how much have children actually learned?

 Reliable methods of testing and certifying learning achievement are an important part of an educational system that seeks to meet the needs of all children. They are essential to monitoring progress of students during the school year and to ensure that school-leaving examinations are fair and allow selection according to merit. Measuring learning achievement is also an essential step to assessing the overall quality and efficacy of the educational system.

 In most Central and Eastern European countries, the assessment of learning achievement has been limited to ongoing monitoring that is predominantly ad hoc and school-based. School-leaving examinations are often used more as a selection device for continuing education than providing any feedback on the educational system.

However, in the late 1990s, countries have paid greater attention to measuring learning achievement. In Romania, where after a slow start, the National Evaluation and Examination Service was founded in 1998 and rapidly initiated the first significant changes in the system of evaluation and examination – including administering a national exam for 8th grade graduates (Romania, 1999). In Croatia and Slovakia, assessments took place in 1999 as part of the Monitoring Learning Achievement project that examined literacy, numeracy and life skills.

 Large-scale comparative studies of achievements in reading, maths and sciences have been the main source of data on learning achievement. Accordingly, results from the Third International Maths and Sciences Study (TIMSS) were widely cited in the EFA 2000 national reports (Slovakia, 1999; Latvia, 1999; Romania, 1999). The study collected comparable data on children’s learning achievements in 41 countries, including nine countries in Central and Eastern Europe, between 1993-94. Thus, it represents findings at one point of time in the early years of the transition. Results from the TIMSS follow-up, available in 2001, will allow a better opportunity to examine changes in achievements over time. The comparison of the national mean scores in maths and sciences showed that children in 7th and 8th grade in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Russia achieved better results than in Germany, the U.S. and other OECD countries. These scores ranked the Czech Republic 6th in mathematics and 2nd in science compared to the U.S. which was ranked 28th and 17th. Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, on the other hand, scored well below the average.

 However, how these scores are distributed across the child population is also important. Generally, there is greater variation in scores (i.e., the difference between highest and lowest scores) in Central and Eastern European countries. Figure 7 shows the range in median mathematics scores among 8th grade children (13-14 year olds) by their parents’ educational attainment level. The results show significantly larger differences in learning outcomes by family background in the former socialist countries than in Western Europe or other OECD countries.

Figure 7. Mathematics scores among 8th graders by parental education, 1994/95 *

 Based on these data, it is not possible to conclude that the distribution of learning achievement became more unequal during the 1990s. Generally, there is very little evidence on whether the educational system has become a source of greater inequality. However results from a national assessment of learning achievement in Hungary show signs of a widening gap in achievement among students by place of residence. Figure 8 shows average scores in maths and reading for 8th grade children in tests conducted in a sample of schools in 1991 and 1995. First, there is a large differentiation in the mean scores, especially between rural areas and urban settlements. Moreover, this gap increased over the early 1990s. For example, the average maths score in Budapest was 9 per cent higher than in villages in 1990 but 14 per cent higher in 1995. This increase could reflect a number of factors, including the decentralisation of the responsibility for provision of basic education (UNICEF, 1998).

Figure 8. Reading and mathematics scores among 8th gradersby place of residence in Hungary, 1991 and 1995 *

 Although it is not possible to judge changes over time, there is further evidence of disparities in learning achievement by place of residence at different levels of the educational system. A national assessment of 4th grade children in Bulgaria carried out in April 1998 showed that 86 per cent of children from the capital and district towns met the minimum standard, compared to 70 per cent of children from small towns and 54 per cent from rural areas (Bulgaria, 1999).

 Urban/rural disparities are also reflected among school graduates. A study conducted in 1997/98 in Romania showed significant differences in test scores at the end of compulsory schooling. Eighty-three per cent of urban children passed the exam compared to only 68 per cent of rural children (Romania, 1999). In addition to school factors, it is felt that the widespread use of extra-curricular private tutoring financed by parents is considered by to have been an important source of social inequity (Romania, 1999).

 Generally, assessments of performance in maths and science reflect only one part of the learning process. Assessments that seek to measure how well skills are applied (often referred to as "functional" skills) represent an important complement to the measurement of theoretical knowledge in specific areas. While there have been few such studies in Central and Eastern Europe, evidence of low levels of functional literacy were found in a Romanian study. A nationally-representative study conducted in Romania among 8th graders in 1993/94 showed that one in five living children living in rural areas tested as functionally illiterate. Moreover, this level was five times higher than among urban children (Romania, 1999). The study also showed that low test scores were correlated to low levels of educational qualifications among the children’s parents. However the educational system in Romania may be considered somewhat unique in Central and Eastern Europe, and further data are needed. The recent adult literacy study organised by the OECD included the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland and will provide greater insight as to whether there is sufficient reason to believe that the Romanian case can be generalised across the region.

Implications for equity in education

 Changes in access and quality have important implications for equity. The increasing reliance on the contribution of the community and family to support educational expenses is bound to discriminate children from poorer regions, communities and families. Socio-economic disparities between households and regions have widened dramatically during the 1990s and are reflected in the growing polarisation across the educational system.

Disparities by household income

 Kindergartens, for example, have become more differentiated between those with excellent conditions but high fees and those with poor infrastructure and conditions, utilised mainly by those without other alternatives. Childcare was not free under communist rule but it was heavily subsidised by the state and the place of employment. The introduction of user fees, meant to recover at least a portion of costs, lowered demand for childcare services. The marketisation and privatisation of state-run services, and the establishment of private facilities, have led to higher prices for pre-school services, though these vary widely by country. For example, in the Czech Republic, where enrolment rates are high, fees for public kindergartens comprise only 2 to 5 per cent of the average monthly wage while in the capital of FR Yugoslavia, Belgrade, public costs are 25 per cent of the average wage and private fees exceed the average wage – 120 to 180 per cent (UNICEF, 1999c). In Ukraine in 1997, parents paid 15 to 20 per cent of the cost (Ukraine, 1999). Pre-school expenses represent only a small part of total per capita consumption, but, in many countries, they represent a high proportion of service expenditures, and among families with children, the highest share.

 In response to the difficulties faced by low-income families, a number of countries have made efforts to contain fees and to make pre-school available on a social assistance basis. In the Czech Republic and Romania, fees usually just cover the cost of meals and even this fee is reduced or waived for low-income families (Romania, 1999). However, there is still a long way to go in establishing formal and informal programmes outside major cities and industrial centres.

 At the level of basic schooling, fiscal adjustment forced by declines in public expenditure and decentralisation has influenced education quality rather than access. In fact, changes in equality of opportunity in basic education appear rather within the system then in terms of simply entering the system. That is, most children are in school, but only some have access to a better quality education, that is, better teachers, better school conditions, and more relevant classes. Only children whose family can pay the additional fees can use the necessary textbook, receive tutorials, take part in special classes and participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities.

 In post-compulsory schooling, the recent increase in the number of students continuing education after basic education is a positive sign. However the distribution of those not continuing is still differentiated both by income and residence. Figure 9 shows that in Bucharest (where conditions are better than other parts of Romania) young people from "low-income" households were less likely to aspire to continuing education and less likely to pass entrance examinations into upper secondary schooling (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Transitions to upper secondary schooling by income level in Bucharest, 1998 *

The pressures on households are increased by textbooks for the high school level, costs of application to admission examinations at high schools, vocational schools and universities, delivery of study certificates, voluntary contributions, building reparation and teaching materials acquisition and private tutoring. (Romania, 1999)

 Likewise in Latvia, income differentials were related to continuing school both in urban and rural areas. Children in the poorest families were three times more likely not to continue school than those in the richest families in urban areas and 11 times more likely in rural areas (Latvia, 1999).

 The introduction of new forms of educational provision (e.g., non-state) most clearly raise equity issues. For a number of reasons, schools that limit access to paid tuition, whether part of elite or private streams of education, deny opportunities to those who cannot afford it. As well, particularly in an environment where teachers are underpaid, these schools can attract better teachers from other parts of the system.

Disparities by region

 The differentiation in education access and quality across urban and rural regions has sharpened. Not only access to school has become more difficult in rural areas, as smaller schools are consolidated and families have to pay transport to a neighbouring school, but also the quality within the remaining school is declining.

Children (living in) rural area(s)…have to walk a distance of 5-6 kilometres by foot to reach the nearest school. (Moldova, 1999)

uthorities responsible for such services were often large collective farms, since disbanded (or privatised successfully, in which case some of these services have likely been preserved), thus leading to a faster decline in rural areas. The case of kindergarten enrolments in Lithuania and Poland is shown in Figure 10. In both countries, there was already a substantial difference in enrolment rates between urban and rural regions in 1990. In the transition, rural provision was hit more sharply than urban in Lithuania, dropping to only 7 per cent in 1994. In Poland, improvements in urban enrolment rates (from 56 to 61 per cent) have not been matched by similar increases in rural areas.

Figure 10. Kindergarten enrolments by place of residence, 1990-1997 *

 Thus, it is not only a matter of greater deterioration in the rural areas, but also of greater gains in the urban areas. In upper secondary education, the development of "elite" or competitive streams of education and the greater co-operation between local general secondary and higher education institutions place rural students at a disadvantage (Russia, 1999).

Groups disadvantaged in access to education

 Developing equitable educational systems that promote the development of all children is an important goal for governments. EFA national reports suggest that there is great cause for concern with regards to education and children facing disadvantage, whether it is because of a different native language, a physical or mental disability or children with special needs, care-leavers, children-refugees are facing even greater disadvantage in the 1990s

 Educational provision for disabled children varies widely across the region. In many Central and Eastern European countries, the past practice was that schooling took place in separate institutions. However, since 1990, there have been more initiatives to integrate disabled children into mainstream schools (Latvia, 1999; Croatia, 1999; Lithuania, 1999). This is a positive development in that it reflects a more flexible approach to accommodating the different needs of children and their rights to broader participation in society.

 The equal access of children of ethnic minorities to schools is a subject of concern in any country and in some countries the Roma population face fewer educational opportunities than before. Lower enrolment and attendance rates can be seen for Roma children in the 1990s and EFA national reports note that much of the drop-out and repetition in primary and secondary education occur among Roma children.

  International Consultative Forum on Education for All, 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France. Tel: (33) 1 45 68 21 27, Fax: (33) 1 45 68 56 29, E-mail: Website:
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