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Step by Step Benevolent Foundation

Photograph of five children in classroomThe Step by Step Program was initiated in Armenia in 1998, initially by the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation - Armenia, in order to support early childhood education in the face of difficulties due to the economic crises in the country. A situation analysis showed that many kindergartens were on the verge of closure and very little attention was paid to primary education. In that context, SBS was a serious attempt to address issues, which were either ignored or insufficiently dealt with by other organizations. From an initial pilot group of classrooms in 5 kindergartens located in 3 major cities, the program has expanded to 72 kindergartens and 22 primary schools in all regions of Armenia. The program works with teachers and professionals at 3 levels: preschool, primary school, and higher education. The Step by Step by Step Benevolent Foundation was founded in 2001 to continue promoting child-centered early childhood education through teacher training, education reform, and translation and publication of professional literature.

Model sites have been established in 5 existing kindergartens and 5 primary schools in 4 major cities: Yerevan, Vanadzor, Noyemberyan, and Eghegnadzor. Professionals at these sites conduct training for current preschool and primary school teachers, support student practica for education students in universities and teacher training institutes, and ensure continuity of the program through attracting new sites that are interested in working with the SBS methodology. In 2002, SBS will serve around 600 new educators from preschools and primary schools through trainings conducted by the existing model sites. Training and educational materials will be provided to 34 new first-grade, 35 second-grade, 32 third-grade, 12 fourth-grade, and 15 Infants and Toddlers classrooms.

The Step by Step program is officially recognized by the MOE and is included into the Education Development State Program for 2001-2005. According to that Program, each year 50 additional kindergartens will be involved into the SBS program.

Certification: The SBSBF is also focusing on the issue of certification, in order to insure the continued high quality of child-centered education in Step by Step and other classrooms. With the assistance of mentors from the Step by Step program in Moldova and additional technical assistance from the US, the Foundation will work out a certification plan for Armenian teachers according to the standards developed by the ISSA.

Cooperation: Step by Step is successfully working with other NGOs and cooperates with local educational authorities and international organizations. Among the international organizations, UNICEF, World Vision, and Save the Children demonstrate great interest toward the SBS Program. There is a common ground for cooperation with UNICEF in the important field of home-based education and parenting. SBSBF will work closely with World Vision on to promote inclusive education for children with disabilities. In cooperation with Save the Children, SBSBF will focus on kindergartens of remote regions. Save the Children will work on community development and renovation while SBS will use its full capacity to train kindergarten staff, work with parents, and develop a caring community interested to in ensuring quality education for their children.

Additional programs: The Step by Step Benevolent Foundation also implements the "Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking" Program, which logically complements the Step by Step Program. Teachers trained by the SBS program are also actively engaged in RWCT trainings conducted by the local certified trainers. Such close links between the two programs enhances effectiveness and adds to the programs' success. SbSBF has been has been awarded a grant from the International Reading Association for the publication of the RWCT-Armenia newsletter in an increased volume, including articles from the "Thinking Classroom" journal.