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Programul Educational Pas cu Pas

Step by Step is a comprehensive education reform program for children birth through age ten, which introduces child-centered, individualized teaching methodologies and supports community and family involvement in preschools and primary schools. The program was initiated in 1994 by Open Society Institute (NY), and designed jointly with Children's Resources International (CRI), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Step by Step is currently being implemented in 26 countries - practically all post-communist countries of Easter and Central Europe, former USSR and some other countries. CRI has served as a partner as well as the international technical assistance provider for Step by Step program throughout its development.

In Moldova Step by Step started in 1994 as an educational program for pre-school children, age 3-5, in 5 kindergartens (12 classrooms). The teachers were trained by international trainers; the classrooms were equipped, with the help of OSI and National Soros Foundation, and served as demonstration sites. From the very first year the program got a strong support from parents and teachers and, in the second year, it had a considerable expansion - 60 new classrooms. In the following years, to meet the growing demands for continuity, the program was extended to age 5-7 and; in 1997, the 0 to 3 initiative was added. By the end of 2000 the pre-school program had a large geographical coverage, comprising 518 urban and rural classrooms - out of which 446 replication classrooms, with practically no other OSI/NF support but training - and 1.110 teachers serving 12.560 families and children. Three kindergartens are model training sites, offering, beside training, the possibility to visit demonstration classrooms.

In 1996, in response to the popularity of the program among parents and teachers, the primary component was initiated in 20 (demonstrational) classrooms; by the end of 2000, it comprised 394 classrooms (300 replication classrooms), with a total of 9850 students from 154 schools; during that period about 600 teachers and school administrators were trained. Three schools serve as model training sites.

The program classrooms provide services to many minority - Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Jewish, Gagauz and Roma - children and families, including many disadvantaged families living in villages.

In 1996 the program launched a new component - higher education - for pedagogical universities and colleges to change the practices of training pre-school and primary teachers. Actually about 50 faculty members from 9 institutions are involved in this process and over 1500 student teachers have been learning new methods based on child-centered curriculum. By adding this component the program addressed the whole cycle of pre-service and in-service teacher training for early childhood.

The external evaluation of the Program was made on numerous occasions by the Ministry of Education and American experts. The SbS is officially recognized by MOE as a good model of child-centered curriculum and is recommended for wide implementation across the country. The SbS re-training certificates are valid for teachers' accreditation.

1999 MOE experts' evaluation included: analysis of teachers' planning and documentation; observing SbS classrooms; assessing the level of psycho-physiological development of SbS kindergarten children using special tests (e.g. sorting out objects by 3 general notions; completing pictures with missing parts, etc.); comparative analysis of SbS primary school children's results in national tests on math and language; interviews with teachers and parents. The evaluation concluded that SbS is a good model of child-centered, formative/developmental education within the general stream of education reform, which:

  • allows children time to learn through exploring their environment, while respecting various learning styles, offering choices;
  • teachers are supportive and do not stress the final product, but rather the process of learning, in which children can take the initiative;

MOE experts praised:

  • non-formal ways of monitoring and evaluating students' progress;
  • the academic level of SbS students in all curriculum areas, which were high compared to the national average;
  • the efficiency of teacher training system, of the way teachers are selected for their openness to change;
  • the way the program team monitors the quality of SbS on-site and seeks constant improvement of program quality

In September 2000 the first generation of SbS children went to middle school. To insure their transition to a new level, the Program offered middle school teachers training in individualized learning, integrated curriculum, etc. After half a year of schooling, middle school teachers state in amazement that SbS students differ a lot from their students in traditional classrooms by their inquisitiveness, independence in setting learning goals, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills.

Step by Step Moldova is registered as an NGO that supports reform at all levels of the systems that prepare new teachers and re-train experienced teachers, by training faculty members and introducing new courses. SbS is devoted to protecting the quality and availability of training programs, promoting long-term professional development, advocating for parent involvement and child-centered early childhood education programs, and developing quality programs for marginalized groups, such as minority or disabled children.

Through its partnership with Social Investment Fund Moldova - a World Bank project that focuses on poverty alleviation and community development in rural areas - the program got its largest expansion. The MSIF-SbS joint initiative addresses school projects - about 38% of 400 mini-projects (at $45.000 maximum each) that MSIF plans for 2000-2005 - and aims physical and moral renovation of schools in those villages that succeed to find 15% local contribution to the general project cost, thus promoting community building.

Presently, SbS is seeking new partnerships for its latest component - Creating inclusive classrooms - that focuses on special needs children, on their rights to quality education in a natural, caring environment, among their peers.