Adolescents Learning and Skills
The second window of opportunity
The second decade of life is a time of transformation. During adolescence (ages 10–19), girls and boys begin to interact with the world in new ways – taking chances, learning skills and experiencing unfamiliar emotions. They venture beyond their families to form powerful connections with peers. They search for ways to stand out and belong, to find their place in society and make a difference in their world.
Adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood that requires special attention and protection. Physically, emotionally, and cognitively children go through a number of important changes as they mature. Adolescence also represents a second window of opportunity for children to develop skills that are key to achieving their full potential and improving countries’ economic growth, social outcomes and poverty reduction.
Challenges to overcome
The 174 million adolescent girls and boys of secondary school age in East Asia and the Pacific symbolize a major force for positive social and economic change for this region: they can contribute to a competitive labour force, sustained economic growth, improved governance and vibrant societies.
However, far too many are not getting what they need to realize their full range of rights and their full potential. Poverty and deprivation, gender inequality and other forms of discrimination intersect with climate change, economic upheaval, conflict and displacement to threaten adolescents’ well-being.
In East Asia and the Pacific, there are still 24 million adolescents out of school, with the impact of COVID-19 threatening to further increase that number - 1 in 3 of the students who remain in schools, do not obtain the expected reading or mathematical skills at lower secondary level.
“Over 24 million or 8 per cent girls and boys of secondary school age in the East Asia and Pacific region are still out of secondary education.”
A change in the education systems is urgently needed. Doing “more of the same” is not enough.
Helping all adolescents learn
Boosting access to learning is critical to laying a foundation for children’s future success. To unleash the potential of adolescents, UNICEF works to transform existing systems for their education and learning in the region. To improve adolescents’ education and learning, UNICEF collaborates closely with government and non-government stakeholders to transform and diversify the existing education systems to improve their learning and skills and better meet the needs of various groups of adolescents, including those still in primary school and those out of school.
“Adolescents who are better informed and involved in decision-making can better protect themselves, grow and develop to their full potential”
UNICEF also strongly encourages adolescent and youth participation, as a right, in planning, analysis and the implementation of programmes. With an emphasis on equity, UNICEF encourages specific attention to adolescents from the most disadvantaged groups, such as those from remote and minority communities, those with disabilities and adolescent girls.
Key interventions on behalf of adolescents include:
- Designing alternative learning pathways for adolescents, including through digital connectivity and digital learning solutions
- Promoting transferable, digital, and technical skills
- Strengthening curricula and assessments
- Teacher training
- Data collection
- Integrated interventions to address multiple needs: health, nutrition, education, protection