EFA Package on inclusive and child-friendly education and early childhood development
UNESCO works to promote quality basic education for all children in Palestine, particularly for those who are most vulnerable to exclusion from and within education based on the principle of the right to education. According to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), 7% of basic education age children are out of school; 25% of boys and 16% of girls in secondary education age group are not in school; and 70% of government teachers in the West Bank are in need of further qualifications. In addition, some groups are particularly vulnerable to exclusion such as children from Bedouin communities.
Inclusive and child-friendly education has been identified as a current priority by the MoEHE, together with early childhood development, to receive further UN support.
Inclusive and Child-Friendly Education brings together Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) and Inclusive education (IE) to strengthen the MoEHE’s capacity to provide quality education to all Palestinian children. Inclusive Education (IE) programmes and Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) refers to the classroom and the whole school and making sure all children are in school and actively involved in learning. Quality learning responds to the individual needs of each child. Inclusive and child-friendly classrooms and schools will look different from district to district, and from school to school, however they are all based on the same three principles (or dimensions):
- Child-centred – Effective with, and healthy and protective of children.
- Democratic – Participatory of children, parents, families and communities.
- Inclusive – Embraces diversity of abilities and backgrounds among students as well as promote gender equity and sensitivity
Nine UN agencies(FAO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNRWA, UNSCO, WFP and WHO, coordinated by UNESCO, have been supporting the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Palestine through the UN/MoEHE ‘Education for All’ Package on inclusive and child-friendly education and early childhood development which aims at strengthening the capacities of the Ministry and education personnel to promote quality basic education for all children, regardless of their gender, abilities, disabilities, backgrounds and circumstances. This Package is responding to the MoEHE’ s goals to increase access and retention of school-aged children in the education system and improve the quality of teaching and learning. Pilot implementation is done through public and UNRWA schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza. These schools benefited from a school feeding programme; different capacity development programmes focusing on ICT in Education, inclusive and child-friendly education as well as special educational needs; innovative education programmes on EFA and educational leadership were designed and implemented as part of the development of pre-service teacher courses, benefiting school principals, teachers and supervisors. Plans have been developed with partner universities in Gaza to improve the relevance of teacher education programmes in order to prepare student teachers to better address the diverse needs and abilities of children. This includes components on special educational needs such as psychosocial support. Moreover for the first time in Palestine, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education opened Grade 0 classrooms (one year pre-school before grade 1) in some of the pilot schools.
The EFA Package will be further implemented with the support of OFID and AGFUND with a focus on capacity development at institutional and teacher training levels, as well as on efforts to improve linkages between schools and communities, particularly through child-led activities and innovative teaching and learning.
The EFA Package has been fully integrated in the first UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Palestine. The Education component of the UNDAF, coordinated by UNESCO, contributes largely to the implementation of the EFA Package for the next three years. Among the main achievements is the increased awareness on inclusive and child-friendly education within UN agencies, MoEHE, universities and civil society organizations. Without establishing inclusive and child-friendly education systems, Palestine will not be able to reach the EFA goals.  Three core elements of Child-Friendly Schools (CFS)