Basic education and gender equality

Innovations in education

© UNICEF/UGDA2011-00100/Yannick Tylle
Young Ugandans gather around to use a solar-powered Digital Drum at Bosco Youth Centre in Gulu, Uganda. UNICEF developed these computer kiosks - pre-loaded with multimedia content on health, job training and education opportunities - to serve as information access points for youth and their communities.

From 2000 to 2010, more than 50 million additional children were enrolled in primary school.  Despite this progress, we know that just being in a classroom is not enough to make a lasting impact in the lives of children.  Far too many of them, 130 million worldwide, do not learn how to write or count even after spending four years in primary school. 

Business as usual is not going to change this trend. Innovations in education are integral to building a better future for the most marginalized children.

What is an innovation in education?

For UNICEF, an innovation in education focuses on improving learning and access to quality education for the hardest to reach children. Innovation includes, but is not limited to, the smart and creative use of technology and it could take many forms – it could be a program, partnership, product or process. Some examples include:

  • Edutrac: a mobile-phone based data collection system that enables the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports to have a permanent dialogue with teachers and school communities and collect real time data on what is really happening in schools in terms of teacher and student attendance and sanitary conditions. It has increased accountability in over 3,500 schools with the collaboration of 10,000 reporters.
  • Let Us Learn: a unique collaboration launched with private donors that allows for flexible and innovative approaches to address unequitable progress in education. Five countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal – are targeting the most vulnerable children by sharpening the equity focus in both programming and monitoring of results.  In Afghanistan, for example, 84 per cent of children enrolled in Let Us Learn are girls who never attended school or previously dropped out.
  • TechnoGirls: a partnership among UNICEF, the Government of South Africa and over 100 private sector companies that has connected 10,000 adolescent girls with mentors from the tech sector to boost their skills and job readiness. These girls are enrolled for internships at companies within the sector and mentored by successful professionals who guide them towards a career path in these fields. About 40 per cent of Technogirls alumni that are in university have achieved full scholarships to study engineering and technology related majors.
  • Mobile Playgrounds: research has shown that play activities are fundamental to a child’s overall development. In 2011, UNICEF’s Bangladesh and Haiti Country Offices began to test Play and Learning Activities for Youth (P.L.A.Y.), an innovative project that brings portable mobile playgrounds to extremely vulnerable children. The project reached 13,000 children and initial findings suggest that the playgrounds have positively affected parental involvement in school activities and improved child development areas such as planning, collaboration, empathy and empowerment, the latter particularly when they built and accomplished something together. All Bangladeshi kids who participated in the project evaluation agreed that playing with the blocks made them happy and reduced their stress and anxiety.

Next steps

Building on these successes, UNICEF is collaborating with partners to systematically identify, assess and incubate promising innovations. In 2014, together with our partners, we are selecting a first round of innovations to spur changes in education systems and practices, following this process:

For more information, please contact: jgiraldoospino at unicef dot org.



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