More than 65,000 children in rural areas and villages across Belarus will benefit from an education programme aimed at promoting collaborative learning and science education.
The Education Minister Igor Karpenko and World Bank Office Country Manager in Belarus, Alex Kremer, signed an agreement on additional financing of the Belarus Education Modernization Project.
The additional financing will be in the amount of €90 million, which will go towards modernizing, equipping schools, and improving student learning in Belarus.
Over €81 million will be spent on rehabilitating, modernizing and reconstructing educational institutions with new training and laboratory equipment. Furthermore, innovative centres on science education will be set up in selected schools to promote science education. Overall, the project will cover at least 220 schools throughout the country.
“When people talk of regional development, they often forget that education is one of the best local investments available,” says Mr Kremer
“This project will help boost the learning of rural children because a kid’s education shouldn’t depend on where they are born.”
Mr Igor Karpenko echoed a similar message.
“This is the message of our head of state (President Alexander Lukashenko), and we are doing our best to meet this goal, including with the help of the World Bank through the project to upgrade regional schools,” he said.
“I am confident that our further cooperation with the bank, and the agreement we have signed, will promote the creation of equal rights for children.”
“This includes equipped classes and technical aids to help every kid develop, receive quality education, socialize and get ready for a responsible life,” the minister said.
In an address earlier this month to the Belarusian people and Parliament, President Alexander Lukashenko set the priorities for the development of the country; and this included the improvement of the education sector and system.
Mr Alex Kremer added:
“Demography changes. We can see more children in one region and fewer in another. The adaptation of the school network falls on the shoulders of the Education Ministry. “
“The World Bank welcomes the ministry’s efforts to address the issue. I am impressed with Belarus’ determination to shift to per-student financing and develop a network of schools with education centres. I am confident that Belarus can be proud of such steps,” he said.
Prior investments and support for educational programs from the World Bank are already showing strong results. Belarus used a World Bank Institutional Development Fund (IDF) grant to try out per-student financing (PSF) for schools in 2015.
With PSF, each school’s budget and staffing is based on the number of children so that money will go where it is most needed. Given the experiment’s success, the Belarusian Government rolled out PSF nationwide in all general secondary schools since 2019, currently expanding PSF to pre-school institutions.
Considering the success of previous projects, many are optimistic that this project will help Belarus evaluate how successfully children are learning and engaging with the curriculum.
In 2018, Belarus participated in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time in its history. This additional financing will enable Belarus to take part in PISA 2021 and 2024 and provide for more comprehensive analysis of the testing results.
A national education management information system (EMIS), currently in preparation as part of the original project, will be expanded to all levels of the education system, making it possible to track graduates in their later careers and work out the impact of different educational programs.
Whilst basic statistics on schooling are available in Belarus, there is not much information on students learning outcomes. With the additional financing, many hope that will change.
The agreement was signed at the Starye Yurkovichi kindergarten-secondary school. The facility was rehabilitated in 2016-2017, also with the help of the World Bank. The bank allocated 423,000 Belarusian rubles (Br) to repair the roof, classrooms, toilet facilities and the hallways. Other classrooms, the gym and changing rooms were also improved and modernised with the help of funds allocated from the local budget.