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Basic education

Students in Thailand
Child-friendly teaching leaves children smiling in Thailand

The Issues

Increased access to basic education is one of the cornerstones of our region’s economic prosperity and relative security. But we still need to overcome social and economic disparities, gender discrimination and poor education quality before we achieve universal basic education.

  • At the primary school level, poverty, discrimination and economic upheaval shut out millions of children. These include ethnic minorities and children who are displaced, those with a disability and/or those living in remote areas.
  • Gender biases are pronounced in secondary schools. Across the region, 6 million fewer girls than boys are enrolled in secondary school, although in some countries, there are far fewer boys studying in post-primary levels. Once in school, girls regularly encounter gender stereotypes and discrimination and may experience harassment from male students. Walking to and from school may involve further harassment from other males.
  • Education quality is a serious concern. Schools in poorer, more remote areas are more likely to be overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. In Cambodia, average classroom size is 50 students per teacher, compared to 20 students per teacher in Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand.

Rallying children for an early school start in DPR Korea
Rallying children for an early school start in DPR Korea

UNICEF in Action

In our region, UNICEF acts on a number of fronts to get more children into school and keep them there. Key activities in basic education are:
• implementing the Child-Friendly School Framework, which seeks to make schools inclusive, child-centred, protective, safe, healthy, gender sensitive and engaged with communities and families;

• improving the quality of teaching by helping governments and communities introduce more effective training, support and supervision of teachers;

• developing local curricula to ensure the relevance of education;

• providing mainstream learning opportunities for children with a disability;

• developing local language textbooks and materials for ethnic minorities;

• addressing gender discrimination through advocacy, public awareness campaigns and the development and dissemination of good practices in gender equality;

• collecting and assessing data on schools to guide future plans and strategies;

• rolling out the Child-Friendly School Capacity Development programme, which contains three components: the development of a manual for decision makers, planners and practitioners; the development of accompanying an e-learning package; and workshops at the regional and country levels. 

In the course of UNICEF’s work with countries over the past decade, child-friendly school (CFS) models have emerged as a ‘package solution’ and a holistic instrument for pulling together a comprehensive range of quality interventions in education. CFS models are now the major means through which UNICEF advocates for and promotes quality in education. Based on promising success with the CFS model in more than 60 countries, UNICEF now seeks to mainstream CFS or similar models into the education system in all 154 countries in which it operates. UNICEF advocates for this approach in preference to the current tendencies of investing sequentially in single factors like teacher training or textbooks provision as determinants of quality.



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