Preprimary & Primary Education
The preschool education as defined by The Law on Education (Article 17) begins at age three and continues until age six or seven. The law allows for a guarantee of the education of preschoolers in nurseries and kindergartens through provision of material and financial support. However, the Ministry of Education and Science has noted that since 1993 there has been a decline in preschool education and has called this a phenomenon of "kindergarten depopulation." For example, in 1993 there were 1,877 kindergartens with 202,300 children enrolled, that declined in 1995 to 1,668 kindergartens with 161,200 children, and further to 1,581 kindergartens with 147,300 children in 1997, despite no significant change in demographic composition of the population. According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996 there were a total of 133,426 students in preprimary schools, of which 62,719 were females. Nearly 22,415 pupils were in the private preprimary schools. The gross preprimary enrollment ratio was estimated to be as low as 45 percent. The reasons for this decline included the closure of preschools by local authorities that could not sustain the financial costs to run these institutions. No significant differences in enrollment of male and female children have been found. Foreign bilateral and multilateral agencies have been supporting special projects in this area such as the Program of Early Individual Education (PETI) by UNICEF. In addition, the private sector has also started some preschools, but mostly in the urban areas, catering to the more affluent sections of the population. In 1996, the teacher-pupil ratio was one per seven pupils at the preprimary level. In 1996, all preprimary teachers were females.
The primary education includes grades 1-4 and typically involves children between the ages of 8-12. According to the Law on Education, "primary education contributes to children's formation as a free and creative personality, to the development of intellectual capacities, of strong reading, writing, and calculating skills, providing the development of communicating skills and the abilities of expression in a foreign language." Since the law mandates education, and schooling is mandatory at age seven, primary enrollment rates remain high when compared to other low-income countries. According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996, the intake in primary schools was 98 percent of all children in the age group. There were 320,725 children in primary schools of which 156,417 were females. The number of students in first grade were 81,067; in second grade 80,437; in third grade 79,709; and in fourth grade 79,512. The number of repeaters was very small with a total of 3,726 (1.2 percent) of which 1,736 (2 percent) were in the first grade; 1,721 (2 percent) were in the second grade; 617 (0.8 percent) were in the third grade; and 652 (0.8 percent) were in the fourth grade. According to UNICEF, in 1999 the gross primary enrollment ratio for males was 96 percent and 95 percent for females. A UNDP Report noted that in 1995, there were only 3,989 (0.7 percent) of all school aged children who were not in the primary school. Family poverty was the main reason for this non-attendance.
The teacher-pupil ratio at the primary level was 1 teacher per 23 students. A large majority of primary teachers were females (97 percent). The curriculum in primary grades emphasizes skills in reading, writing, and math. Two-thirds of all primary schools offer these skills through Moldovan while also teaching additional languages, such as Russian. Some primary schools also offer groups with prolonged programs extending into the afternoons. The examinations that determine passage or failure are held yearly at the school level.
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