The main goal of the study was to analyze the existing early learning models, relevant funding schemes, and potential funding strategies to expand preschool enrollment from the current 46%1 to universal coverage of 100%. The study is based on a detailed analysis of the Georgian preschool education sector’s institutional foundations, as well as its demographics, legal, economic, and financial conditions. Since independence, Georgia’s preschool education sector has gone through several successive phases. It declined dramatically throughout the 1990s but in 2001 it began to gradually expand. This ended with the decentralization reform of 2005. Currently, the Net Enrollment Rate (NER) in public preschools stands at 42%2, while 4%3 of children are in private care. Although the total preschool population shrank relative to 1990, the preschool NER today is higher than it was during the pre-independence period. moreover, almost half of all 5-year-old children are enrolled in primary schools4. Nevertheless, about 40%5 of 3 to 5-year-old children are not covered by any EL or primary education institutions.
The 2005 reform placed the burden of financing public preschools on the municipal governments, although it also gave them the freedom to tailor early learning delivery to local needs. Accordingly, the role of national policymaking agencies such as moES and moHLSA has been significantly reduced. Their main function in today’s environment is to issue methodological guidance. The post-2005 decentralization efforts created a huge diversity in the way preschool education is delivered throughout Georgia’s 65 municipalities. For instance, municipalities exhibit vast differences in enrollment rates, quality of service, cost per child, and the relative shares of municipal and parental contributions to this cost, as well as attention to the needs of socially vulnerable children.