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Adolescents, education & participation

© UNICEF Bulgaria/2013/Pirozzi
Adolescents have the right to education. The second decade of children's lives is a critical stage for cognitive and social development.
Access to quality education is a human right for all children and adolescents. This right is cemented by international conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Education for All goals. Yet, in the region:

  • Adolescents make up one of the largest group of out of school children;
  • Equity gaps between genders, income groups and ethinic/language groups increase significantly after primary school;
  • The distinct challenges facing adolescents and youth in education have not been sufficiently addressed by national policies and programmes;
  • The voices of adolescents and youth are virtually absent from discussions of education quality improvement at national and regional level.

UNICEF in the region is working to increase access to education for adolescents out of school, to close equity gaps in education and to enhance young people's participation in policymaking.

In 2010, UNICEF launched a regional study to investigate the situation of education quality from the perspectives of young people themslves. Using an innovative and participatory methodology, UNICEF trained teams of youth researchers to conduct nationally representative surveys on education quality in three countries - Georgia, Kosovo* and Tajikistan. UNICEF also included the Chechnya, Russian Federation in the investigation, where youth led focus group discussions were held and analysed.

The findings of the study - Demand for Education Innovation - contribute to a better understanding among governments and partners of the challenges facing young people in education and to identify young people's priorities for improving education quality. The research engaged young people from Kosovo*, Georgia and Tajikistan at all stages of the research process - from its design to the dissemination of the findings. It calls on governments to:

  • Innovate teaching and learning processes to make them more attractive, more flexible, more relevant and more supportive of the distinct needs and priorities of young people.

  • Reduce the number of early school leavers by giving special attention to preventing students from leaving school early and creating more second chance opportunities for young people that have left school

  • Promote the participation of young people and youth organizations in decision-making processes from the classroom to the national level.

The follow up to the research is ongoing at national and regional level. For more information about this work, contact

Multi-country study on youth perspectives shows high demand for education but barriers persist

GENEVA, 19 October 2011 — UNICEF today launched the first-ever youth-driven study based on nationally representative surveys of young people`s perspectives on education quality in Georgia, Kosovo* and Tajikistan. They are calling for more education but social, political and economic barriers are preventing them from achieving their educational goals, the findings show.

The vast majority of young people –  over 90 per cent of 13-24 year olds surveyed in all three countries - say they would like more education than they already have. Yet the study shows that while education enrolment rates are holding steady or improving, self-reported absenteeism is high and many dropouts are occurring. Youth are struggling to push past barriers to stay in school.

The barriers range from poverty, poor quality of education, lack of modernized education content, lack of flexible services for young people with special learning needs and disabilities, lack of non-formal learning opportunities, restrictive gender roles, early marriage and particularly for Tajik female students, lack of parental support.

“Adolescents and youths have unique insights into the challenges and priorities facing them. Including their perspectives is necessary so together they can play a key role in developing initiatives that fully address the most urgent issues affecting them,” said Kirsi Madi, Deputy Regional Director for UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States Regional Office, at the launch.

The study titled Demand for Education Innovation: Adolescent and Youth Perspectives on Education Quality involved almost 2,000 randomly sampled and surveyed young people and another 500 youth interviewed in 61 focus group discussions. Dozens more developed the topics, questionnaire and carried out the surveys. Among key findings are:

  • The research found worryingly high rates of reported absenteeism. Among the males sampled, 30 per cent in Kosovo*, 47 per cent in Tajikistan and 68 per cent in Georgia reported that they have skipped school without permission in the previous 12 months - in many cases 10 or more times. Males are more likely to be absent without authorization than females in each case, particularly in Kosovo*.
  • Between 5 and 7 per cent of youth sampled in each case went on to say they have permanently dropped out of school before completing secondary education. In Tajikistan, dropouts are most often rural, female and older youth, indicating that in this case gender may play an important role deciding a young person’s educational attainment.
  • Many youths feel that their own education quality has been harmed by armed conflict, and even more feel that armed conflicts have worsened education quality in their country overall, while many others do not perceive any effects.
  • Young people want their education and extra-curricular activities to be more relevant to their future job prospects; they also want more practical learning opportunities such as mastering computer-based competencies and foreign languages which they say are important for sustaining their motivation for learning.
  • They also call for more opportunities to make their voices heard and greater involvement in decision making which for many of them are key measures of education quality.

For more information, please contact:

UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Office
Lely Djuhari, Communication Specialist
Tel: +41 792 044 82

* Under UNSC Resolution 1244





Demand for Education Innovation

Partners consultation

Key messages, outcomes and recommendations from the Partners Consultation, October 2011.

Evaluation of Research Process

Partners consultation presentations

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International Youth Day

In this podcast, Amy Costello discusses the importance of youth participation in achieving education quality in a commemoration of International Youth Day.

By youth, for youth


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