Creative awarded USAID inclusive education program in Uzbekistan
By Michael J. Zamba
A new USAID-funded education program focusing on inclusive and equitable early grade education in Uzbekistan has been awarded to Creative Associates International, a social-impact organization implementing locally focused projects in nearly 30 countries.
The $25 million, five-year All Children Succeeding program is designed to support Uzbekistan’s mandate to improve teacher and paraprofessional training, revise education materials, update its curriculum, enhance educational access for all students, including those with disabilities.
“Creative brings decades of experience partnering with governments and communities to effect sustainable systemic change in education and improve learning outcomes,” says Leland Kruvant, Creative’s President & CEO. “Our approach emphasizes ownership and control by local governments, educators and parents.”
All Children Succeeding will focus on improving foundational skills and inclusion from kindergarten to grade 5, initially working in 1,000 schools in Uzbekistan’s Namangan and Sirdaryo regions, with a third region assigned later.
Uzbekistan’s education system has historically followed a teacher-centered, textbook-driven model where all students are expected to learn the same material at the same pace, leaving little room for diverse engagement strategies.
“It’s critical for all learners—especially early grade students and children with disabilities—to have hands-on activities, work with peers, explore concepts, practice skills through playful activities and to consolidate and express learning in multiple ways,” says Cory Heyman, Creative’s Vice President of Education.
Led by Creative, the USAID-supported All Children Succeeding consortium of local and international practitioners bring the best practices in inclusive education, Heyman says.
Sharoit/Praxis Plus is a local organization that leads awareness raising, advocacy and training for inclusion for people with disabilities. Yuksalish brings strong relationships with the public sector, civil society and communities in Uzbekistan and experience in engaging citizens in government reform. Syracuse University brings expertise in teacher and learner materials and teacher preparation for disability inclusive education. American Councils for International Education will provide expertise in learning assessments and English language learning in Uzbekistan.
“NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US”
To secure the rights of children with disabilities, Uzbekistan’s government has set a goal that 51 percent of all schools will be inclusive by 2025, as well as ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is a human rights instrument that adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“The All Children Succeeding program is happening at a key moment that allows communities, parents, and educators to capitalize on Uzbekistan’s commitments to advance inclusive education service delivery and long-term sustainability through local ownership,” says Kathryn Fleming, Creative’s Senior Project Director.
Fleming explains that Uzbekistan relies on specialized boarding schools called “internats” to educate children with specific disabilities, though these institutions often lack qualified personnel, training and resources. “Unfortunately, this model exacerbates exclusion and inequity by labeling some children as uneducable and focuses specialized resources on segregated schools and not across the system,” Fleming says.
It is estimated that more than 1,900 students with disabilities are in Namangan and Sirdaryo’s internats schools, while another 1,300-plus students with disabilities are believed to be home schooled.
INCLUSIVE, HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION
The five-year program’s goal supports the Uzbekistan’s mandate to deliver inclusive, high-quality and equitable education in foundational skills for school-aged children through three results:
Updating teaching and learning materials. To advance inclusion and foundational skills, the program’s experts will revise and improve these materials to integrate inclusive education principles and provide assistive technology and devices for children with disabilities.
Transforming education actors’ school-based practices. All Children Succeeding will strengthen pre- and in-service professional development for teachers, school leadership and experts in inclusive education, including development of individualized support plans for students with disabilities.
Advancing reforms of education systems. All Children Succeeding will work closely with the government to establish policies, procedures, and practices to continue advancing quality inclusive education and will partner with civil society and disabled persons organizations to generate greater understanding and support of inclusive education.
All Children Succeeding, partners, government officials, and educators will work to identify and develop model schools in each target region that will serve as pilots for interventions and serve as long-term inclusive education resource hubs. In addition, the program and Tashkent State Pedagogical University named for Nizami will pilot an inclusive education learning lab so faculty and students may engage with new high-tech and low-tech technologies and learn how to use them to meet a variety of student’s needs.
During co-creation, participants urged activities that increase the awareness and understanding of the public related to disability inclusion – as well as motivating parents and community members to support and advocate for inclusive education in their communities and provide venues for dialogue with government and school administration to do so. Yuksalish will conduct ongoing assessments on public perception, lead communications campaigns and facilitate community-school-government dialogues to increase public awareness, understanding and support for the program’s goals.