AEDP represents a mega project designed to assist the reformation of the Albanian education system. The three pillars of the project were curricula, community and construction. The purpose of the project was to create models that would later be taken up by the Ministry of Education and Science and applied system wide. Upon the closure of the AEDP, OSFA continued with the pre-university program (2002-2005) with priority focus on the improvement of educational policy. The program areas included:
- the school and the community;
- equity and quality education;
- special issues in educational policy.
The program was mainly implemented operationally. However, throughout the life of the program OSFA worked closely with education NGOs, associations of stakeholders, municipalities, the educational training centers, education specialists, etc.
Over the three years of its implementation, the program benefitted authorities, teachers, parents, decision makers, policy makers and education clients. The main impact of the program lied in:
- enhancing transparency in the education sector and communicating education reform to the public;
- institutionalization of stakeholder participation in education supply and solution of the major problem encountered in education;
- coordination of the efforts of various actors external to the public administration to maximize impact on educational developments.
OSFA completed the collection of the AEDP legacy and published the book „The school is ours” (2004). Over the years 2002-2005 OSFA supported the Step by Step Program, the Critical Thinking Program and the publication of the magazine „Education today and tomorrow” by the organization Education towards the future. Succinctly, the most important projects were:
Involving communities in providing solutions to school problems
Involving local governments in educational reform
Training reporters to cover educational issues
Contributing to „Education for all” InitiaTIVE (EFA)
Contributing to the solution of certain educational problems
Household expenditures in education
Assessing public and private investment in education
Promoting teachers’ standards
Promoting educational goals through social policies
Community involvement in providing solutions to school issues
Albania has had no tradition of involving communities in school life. Therefore, AEDP had made community involvement into one of its priorities over its 8 years of operations. Thanks to AEDP contribution education stakeholders including parents and community members, learned extensively about the tools and techniques of cooperation and mutual support for advancing education objectives. AEDP was able to accomplish this through using the methods of imparting theoretical knowledge and the practical implementation of this knowledge in concrete projects designed to effect changes and contribute to the generation of solutions in the efforts to reform the education system. In the reform process, new mechanisms were designed such as the parents’ council, the school board, the parents association and the student government. These bodies are the representatives of interest groups with a stake in policy and decision making related to schooling and education. OSFA paid particular importance to civic engagement in education reform and reform monitoring. To better foster substantive participation, OSFA funded a survey by the Center for Research and Development to conduct a survey of individuals above 18 years of age in the towns of Tirana, Durres, Elbasan, Fier and Vlore. OSFA was also involved in the creation of the Confederate of Parents of Albania, an umbrella for the Associations of Parents in the various regions of the country. The Associations and the Confederate are important partners in the implementation of OSFA education strategy. In the same way, OSFA supported the creation of the Network of Education Organizations (NEO). Some of the initiatives implemented in collaboration with the Confederate and NEO were:
- Joint action with the Movement MJAFT to increase education allocation in the year 2005;
- Active participation in the National Conference on the pre University Strategy;
- Building awareness and designing a strategy to prevent violence in the schools throughout the country;
- Working together with the education directorate and the student governments in the region of Durres to identify overloads in the textbooks.
Another project funded by OSFA and implemented by NEO was “Encouraging professional discussions on pre-university education in Albania”. The discussions focused on:
- The quality of reformation measures in compulsory education;
- State of the art of curricula in general secondary education;
- Textbook publishing policies;
- University admission policies.
The discussions placed face to face the education authorities, the teachers and school principals, the parents and teachers as beneficiaries of the education system. Out of these discussions a number of recommendations were made which were submitted to the Ministry of Education some of which were adopted and ultimately led to substantial improvements.
Participation of local governments in educational reform
In the context of decentralization, local governments are vested with powers in the field of general education. OSFA supported a project designed to bring together the various education actors. Called “Discussing decentralization of pre-university education”, the project was implemented by the Association of Mayors of Albania and the Network of Educational Organizations. Discussions were held in Tirana, Elbasan, Durres and Shkoder. These discussions were attended by specialists of the Ministry of Decentralization, members of municipal councils at town and regional level, Mayors, NEO member organizations, school principals, representatives of parents’ councils, school boards and student governments. Participants discussed the major decentralization instruments as regards pre-university education and provided input towards improvements and greater efficiency. The participants made concrete recommendations to amend legislation, separate powers and strengthening the role of school boards and student governments in school life. It was stressed that the Government should take due count of the fact that some of the mandates given to local government are either underfunded or totally unfunded.
Training reporters towards professional coverage of educational issues
Prompted by the need to increase public participation in educational developments in the country and in recognition of the role of the media in conveying important messages widely into the society, OSFA conceived a project to train reporters of the main media in reporting education issues. The training was held in 2003. The reporters were put in touch with educationists, Ministry people, experts from the AEDP spin off Center for Democratic Education, the Step by Step Center, the Evaluation and Assessment Agency, etc. They were also provided with important printed materials explaining some of the keen issues facing education in Albania and capturing on the measures to resolve them. Some of these reporters continued to be in touch with OSFA to learn more of education issues and became an important channel of communication with the public. A direct result of this project was a noticeable increase of reports on education in the newspapers. A case in point was the newspaper “Shekulli” which published a supplement of editions. Most of the articles and writings were contributed by young reporters. For the first time, the Albanian press dedicated thorough analysis to issues such as textbooks, teacher training, relations between students and teachers, decentralization reform, minority education, early childhood development, children with special needs, etc. Teachers allover Albania were involved in the discussions, thus contributing significantly to the birth of newly conceived notions and solutions.
Promoting the initiative “Education for all” (EFA)
Education is a basic human right and a very important investment in our lives. For that reason education is a concern for everybody. The situation of education in Albania is such that imposes the addressing of a number of challenging issues. For example, girls and young women cannot always receive the type of education they aspire to and teachers are not valued for the contribution they make to the society. Education for All is the initiative designed to generate solutions to issues such as low levels of education for Roma, hidden discrimination in schools for reasons relating to origin, social status, dialect, gender, ethnicity, language, etc. By UN resolution, the years 2005-2014 are declared as the Decade of Education for All as a measure towards achieving sustainable development. In this way EFA became a global initiative aimed at providing education opportunities for all. Albania joined the initiative and was invited to submit to the G8 Secretariat its proposal to implement EFA. World Bank committed to support an international consultant and OSFA pledged to fund a local consultant to work with the Ministry staff. UNICEF volunteered to submit the proposal to the donor community in Albania and gather support for it. To advance the initiative, the various actors entered into meaningful partnership. OSFA also funded awareness and education campaigns and ensured public access to information regarding EFA. Part of this effort was the OSFA project “Training civil society actors and media reporters on EFA.” The project disseminated information in the global EFA initiative, the G8 funding levels, global actions taken to implement EFA, etc. It promoted the rights based approach in education to empower society to demand the implementation of this right for all citizens. The project involved interest groups, civil society organizations, activists advocating for equity and quality in education, media reporters, educationist and education NGO-s. Open Society education Program for South East Europe helped with trainers and expertise in communicating education reform to the public. The UNESCO sponsored EFA tool kit was used as basic material in the training event and the proposal prepared by Albania was discussed in many of the events.
Discussions of special education issues
The implementation of the reform in pre-university education requires the thorough discussion of its most important aspects. This is all the more necessary when the problems have newly appeared or when the solutions should be particularly efficient and effective. Prompted by these considerations, OSFA conceived and led a series of discussions about the main orientations of education reform in Albania. A number of TV debates were held on the national level drawing on the expertise of educationists, policy makers, teachers, parents and students. These debates centered around the latest survey and findings of the OECD on Albanian educations. The discussions centered on:
- Curricula and textbooks
- Assessment of student achievement
- Teaching and teacher training
- Vocational educational and training
- Early childhood development and children with special needs
- Education administration and management
Each debate brought together 25-30 people, of whom many educationists, principals of schools, nurseries and kindergartens, teachers, regional education authorities, professors from teacher training faculties, representatives of NGO-s, etc.
Private expenditures in education
This project by the Association for Development of Education aimed at collecting data on household expenditures for children’s education. The basis for this study was the Living Standards Measurement Survey conducted by INSTAT. Additional data were collected through questionnaires with the directors of public and non public schools, interviews with Ministry staff, regional educational directorates, teachers, municipal staff, parents and students. The questionnaires and interviews were denser in Tirana, Durres, Shkoder, Gjirokaster, and Korca. Another important source of information were the official documents related to financial contributions made to schools. The processing of data from these sources led to important estimates related to private expenditures in education made primarily by households. The information has been broken down to levels of schooling in accordance with poverty quintiles (five strata with equal number of households, split according to poverty levels) according to the nature of expenditure (formal, non formal), according to gender (expenditures made for boys and girls) and residence (rural/urban). The study revealed the relationship between poverty and the level of expenditures. In the process, the implementers collected data on the causes of school drop out and school absenteeism. Very detailed data were collected as regards non public schools focusing on the approaches used to collect resources from parents and the ways in which these resources are used. The students’ perspective on how well their parent’s contributions are used was also collected. A very important component related to expenditures made to educate children in universities abroad. The findings were published both in Albanian and in English. The publication was made available to central educational institutions, the governmental and non governmental agencies, the media and education stakeholders.
Developing a methodology to assess public and private expenditures in education
The project carried out by the Center for Research and Development aimed at filling the information regarding the totality of expenditures going towards the education of children and young people. The main results of the study were:
- Determining an adequate methodology on the manner of estimating public and private expenditures in education taking due count of the dynamics of changes, trend, geographical distribution and comparability over time-lines as well as the main destination of private and public expenditures in the education system.
- Creation for the first time of a system of indicators for private expenditures in education on the basis of primary data made available by INSTAT, the Ministry of Education and by other public institutions.
- Carrying out an assessment of public and private expenditures in education not only at national level, but also according the geographic distribution and the nature of these expenditures.
- Submission of special recommendations to improve estimation of private expenditures in education and the mobilization of private resources to the benefit of improving the quality of teaching and learning. Throughout data collection and the creation of the methodology the implementers worked closely with the representatives of INSTAT, the Budget Directorate in the Ministry of Finances and the Directorate of Information at the Ministry of Education and independent experts. The designed methodology proved to be a valuable tool for all those who are involved in the estimation of expenditures, both public and private, in the education, particularly staff of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, the parliamentary commissions, research institutes, universities and municipalities. The results of this study had an instructive value for other organizations and researchers who put it to use when analyzing comparable indicators in other sectors.
Developing teachers’ standards
Pre-service and in service teacher training need to be based on long term, sustainable and professional standards. The Institute of Curricula and Training, therefore, launched the initiative to develop teachers’ standards in cooperation with the universities of Tirana, Shkodra, Elbasan, Vlora, Gjirokastra and Korca and with the 13 Regional Educational Directorates (RED). The initiative is in accordance with the objectives of the National Strategy on Education as well as the recommendations of international organizations in education such as the Bologna Declaration, the Lisbon Agreement, etc. This project by the ICT represented efforts to supply Albanian education with standards that had been missing all along in its history. The development of the standards open the way for the pre-service and in-service teacher training based on standards that enable the acquisition of knowledge and skills that will allow them to build on and improve their capacities throughout their professional life. OSFA provided support to the ICT both under the East East Program and the Pre-University Program. OSFA enabled the exchanges between ICT and the Slovenian Teacher Training University in Ljubljana, visits by Slovenian experts in Tirana, participation of ICT staff in regional events, etc. These activities laid the ground for the continued efforts of ICT staff to establish and refine teachers’ standards.
Using social support schemes to achieve educational goals
Implemented by the Albanian Social and Economic Think Tank and the Association for the Development of Education, the project aimed at increasing enrollments in compulsory education and fighting drop out. Various studies point to the poverty as the main cause for non enrollment in school, school drop out, school absenteeism and poor student achievement. Starting from this context, OSFA supported this project to research ways of conditioning social benefit schemes with school enrollment and attendance by the children of the households that receive social benefits. The two organizations focused on:
- sensitization of the institutions, interest groups and the whole population on the need to make social benefits conditional on school attendance of households with school age children.
- Presentation of positive experiences applicable in Albania’s conditions that would work in enforcing educational goals through social support schemes.
A team of experts in the field of social policy, educational policies, decentralization and institutional arrangements worked to review and classify foreign experiences in this respect. The materials served as a working basis for people from government agencies and NGOs involved in the issue. Following the systemization of successful foreign experiences, a broad based public discussion was launched. The main results of the discussion were:
- Active engagement of the three main ministries, i.e., the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labor and Social protection.
- Increased awareness, political, professional and public, through posters, written articles, media program and a special talk show in “Top – Chanel” on the need to use social policies as an instrument to ensure the education of children from poor households. These activities highlighted the need to coordinate social assistance measures with educational policy.
- The publication of the study results were distributed widely which made possible the implementation in the near term of the recommendations contained therein.
- The two main ministries (of Education and Social Assistance) agreed to pilot a scheme which combined social and educational policy to ensure education of children from poor families.
- Many of the ministries have been convinced of the need to draft in the near future a Decision of the Council of Ministers to gear social policies toward the achievement of educational goals.