The East Asia and Pacific region encompasses one-third of the world’s population and more than one-quarter of the world’s children – around 580 million children in total. The region possesses a stunning variety in geography, culture and political and economic systems and significant diversity can be seen within countries in terms of wealth, ethnicity and language.
Some countries in this region, following the commitments of the Millennium Development Goals and Education For All, have increased enrollment, retention and completion rates and decreased gender gaps. However, many children, both between and within countries, are still out of school or do not have access to quality education because of their socioeconomic status, geographical location, disability, ethnicity, language and gender persist.
The key to sustainable development is achieving inclusive and quality education for all. The Sustainable Development Goal 4 mandates that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to ensure universal access to quality higher education by eliminating gender and wealth disparities and providing equal access to affordable vocational training.
To help achieve these goals for the next 15 years, the UNICEF will continue focusing on inequity in terms of access to education and learning.
Children with disabilities
An estimated 190 million children with disabilities live in the region. Many have limited access to basic services, such as education, protection and psychosocial support. Many governments and other stakeholders assume that the needs of CWD are best addressed by segregation into separate schools. UNICEF supports the principle of inclusion as expressed in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).
Every child regardless of disability, income, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation or cultural origin, should be able to attend a school that fully nurtures their potential to learn within their own communities.
UNICEF works to ensure that countries are sensitive to the rights of CWD and respond to their needs through policies and plans that are cross-sectoral in nature. CWD may also need support from child protection and health services or through social policy measures.
Girls continue to be denied their right to education because of attitudes to their roles; because they bear the burden of domestic work, sibling care and early marriage, and pregnancies; and because they experience violence at or on the way to school. Our research in the East Asia and Pacific region has also indicated that transitions from primary to secondary education and from school to work can be hampered by gender stereotypes, and that boys find education is not relevant to their futures.
Educating girls delivers huge social and economic benefits to the individual, her community and country. When a girl is educated she marries later, has fewer, healthier children and is less likely to die in childbirth. When 10 per cent more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3 per cent.
To meet the goal of eliminating gender disparities under the Sustainable Development Goal 4, UNICEF continues to work on policy advocacy, share best practices, information and data and build partnerships at the regional and country level. This network brings various partners, including UN bodies, civil society organizations and individual experts.
Early childhood development
UNICEF supports Early Childhood Development (ECD) that combines education, health care, nutrition, protection and cognitive stimulation, from the period of pregnancy to 8 years of age to help children achieve their full potential. UNICEF also believes that ECD is the first stage for future learning and success.
ECD can have a positive effect on children. There is burgeoning evidence that high quality ECD for all children is associated with high returns in brain development, learning, and social, emotional and economic outcomes. In this region, data from the education sector show that high quality education and learning opportunities increases the likelihood of children completing primary education.
To promote ECD in the region, UNICEF helped establish the Asia Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) in 2008. Over the past few years, this partnership has brought together over 100 experts on health, education and social welfare from over 18 countries to examine ECD policy, governance and financing for the region. UNICEF country offices in the region have also participated in forming national early learning and development standards, and developing and validating the Asia-Pacific Early Childhood Development Scales.
Approximately 329 million adolescents reside in the East Asia and Pacific region and constitute a quarter of the world’s adolescent population. They must know their right and be encouraged to pursue their dreams.
However, often, they face a number of issues, ranging from violence, early deaths from accidents, to suicides, alcohol and substance use, among many more. Adolescent girls are often particularly at risk.
UNICEF strongly encourages adolescent and youth participation, as a right, in planning, analysis and programs. With an emphasis on equity, UNICEF EAPRO encourages specific attention to adolescents from the most disadvantaged groups, such as those who are stateless, migrants and those with disabilities.
Education in emergencies and peace building
Despite unprecedented advances in development in recent years, the benefits of rapid economic growth have not been shared equally, nor equitably. Many countries are facing significant problems of poverty, high unemployment, social exclusion and marginalization, which have led to violence and social unrest, with substantial impacts on children.
Many countries in the region are also under overwhelming pressures to adapt to new challenges resulting from population growth, rapid urbanization, migration, climate change and natural hazards. In fact, East Asia and Pacific is the most hazard-prone region in the world.
Education is not only a basic human right, but also a preparedness and recovery tool. When children are taught about natural and man-made hazards, they can better prepare themselves, their families and communities to prevent, reduce and cope with various risks and shocks. UNICEF supports countries throughout the region to better educate and prepare children for disasters.
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