UNICEF: Only a third of 10-year-olds globally are estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story
UNICEF warns of the global education crisis and the need for urgent actions as world leaders gather at the Transforming Education Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly
Sofia, 19 September 2022 – Only a third of 10-year-olds globally are estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story. The rest around two-thirds (64%) are unable to cover this marker for minimum proficiency in reading comprehension. This is up from 52 percent pre-pandemic. UNICEF warns of the global education crisis and the need for urgent actions as world leaders gather at the Transforming Education Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly.
Pre-pandemic data shows that one in every eight children at the end of 4th grade in Bulgaria is not able to read and understand simple text. (World Bank, October 2019).
“Under resourced schools, underpaid and underqualified teachers, over-crowded classrooms and archaic curricula are undermining our children’s ability to reach their full potential,” said Catherine Russell UNICEF Executive Director. “We need to reverse current trendlines or face the consequences of a failing to educate an entire generation. Low levels of learning today mean less opportunity tomorrow.”
In Bulgaria, official statistics show that one in every six children is not enrolled in school, and one in every five is not enrolled in kindergarten. UNICEF Bulgaria data shows that almost 10,000 children with special education needs and with disabilities are out of the education system.
Prolonged school closures and a lack of access to quality learning during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated a pre-existing learning crisis that has left millions of schoolchildren worldwide without foundational numeracy and literacy skills, UNICEF warns.
According to UNICEF data, every fifth student in Bulgaria reports worse educational outcomes, and the data from the Ministry of Education shows that almost 120,000 children in the education system are at risk of dropping out.
‘This learning crisis affects vulnerable children the most and is a major driver of intergenerational poverty and inequality’
- said UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria Christina de Bruin.
‘While the learning crisis is a global challenge, it is not an impossible one. Evidence shows that for a little as $10 to $15 a child we can provide remedial education and strengthen education systems to help ensure every child learns the critical foundational skills’.
Maria Alexandrova from Bulgaria, UNICEF advocate for inclusive education, is the only young person from Europe who participated in a direct discussion with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the role of young people in transforming education. According to her, to truly transform education, we must look at the most vulnerable communities (She is a young person living with disabilities). Maria cited UNICEF data that around 129 million girls worldwide are out of school and even those who are in school face numerous stereotypes. UNICEF advocate for inclusive education also spoke of the need for policies supporting children with disabilities. ‘I was one of the lucky few who managed to attend school, but children with disabilities are 49 per cent more likely to never have attended school. Even within school, I faced discrimination and the ongoing doubt I would complete secondary education. Now I stand before you as a proud university student thanks to the support of my family. But my case needs to be the norm and not the outlier. Every child with a disability should have the opportunity to reach their full potential’, she said in front of the world leaders.
‘To make sure that happens, governments must enact gender-sensitive and disability-friendly policies that take into account every student's individual needs, eradicate existing stereotypes, provide a safe and equitable learning environment, and empower young people to have a seat at the decision-making table’.
She also participated in high-level discussions related to the mental health of young people and the process of digitization of education.
UNICEF is calling on governments to commit to reaching all children with quality education, and is urging new efforts and investments to re-enroll and retain all children in school, to increase access to remedial and catchup learning, to support teachers, and to make sure that schools provide a safe and supportive environment so all children are ready to learn.
For 75 years, UNICEF has worked in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.