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Education for adolescents

© UNICEF/EAP02039/Youkontorn R.
Life skills education on HIV infection for street children in Thailand

The Issues

These days, learning how to read, write and do maths is not enough to prepare children for the adult world. Sex, alcohol, drugs, AIDS, conflict, discrimination, unemployment, migration, human trafficking and sexual exploitation – these are just some of the issues young people in our region encounter in their everyday lives. However, certain realities in our region constrain children’s ability to cope with these challenges:

• Many schools still adhere to traditional curricula and didactic teaching methods. Participation is not actively encouraged in these schools, and as a result, children and young people are not developing the skills and confidence they need to navigate the outside world.

• With AIDS epidemics in our region poised to expand, HIV-prevention approaches that deal pragmatically with sex are needed. Life skills can be used to raise awareness about HIV infection and can also be used to teach children and young people about other health issues such as hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, and alcohol and drug use. They can promote human rights awareness and conflict resolution.

UNICEF in Action

A life skills-based education teaches all children and young people practical skills in communicating, negotiating, decision making, critical thinking and problem solving and applies them to real-life situations. Across the region, UNICEF has helped countries introduce life skills-based education, focusing on HIV and AIDS, water and sanitation, and health and nutrition. We have done this by:

• assisting governments in integrating life skills into standard education curricula by providing training, resources and materials;

• launching life skills-based education initiatives, such as the Pacific Stars Life Skills Training Programme and the School-Based Healthy Living and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education (SHAPE) in Myanmar;

• conducting a desk review to explore opportunities for future UNICEF support in non-formal education (NFE) equivalence and skills training programmes for adolescents (10–19 years old) in East Asia and the Pacific; conducive policy environments and good practices. The desk review is intended to look at current innovations, ongoing successes and lessons learned with NFE equivalence and skills training, with a major focus on experiences from East Asia and the Pacific and will feed into the analyses and recommendations of the Regional Adolescent Education Strategy, which will be the basis for future UNICEF education support at the country level;

• examining existing gender disparities by comparing and contrasting the situation of males and females in the East Asia and Pacific region at different levels of education – including the technical and vocational education training and in the labour market. UNICEF EAPRO published Making Education Work – The Gender Dimension of the School to Work Transition in 2008 to highlight issues and ways to harness the productive capacity of young women towards the long-term and sustainable dynamism and progress of the region;

• focusing more on social emotional learning (SEL) in order to expand the AIDS education programmes to engage learners in formal and/or non-formal settings to acquire the skills to recognize and manage emotions, develop caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible and effective decisions, and handle challenging situations effectively.  A pilot project has been introduced in five UNICEF country offices: Cambodia, China, Pacific, Thailand and Timor-Leste. Each country joined regional capacity-building workshops and adapted SEL assessment tools to their national context.  A key element in the process was linking SEL to the CFS framework and using the SEL assessment tool for ongoing work to improve the quality of school learning environments; 

• developing a UNICEF Regional Strategy for Adolescent Education, focusing on improving lower secondary education and offering expanded opportunities for non-formal Education.



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