Strong education systems

A well-built structure is needed to make sure all children have access to education

Getting all children in school and learning takes strong education systems that are transparent and responsive to the communities they serve.

Education systems are complex. Making them work requires close attention to the challenges and needs a country faces. It also entails feats of coordination amongst individuals (including teachers, administrators, and other essential staff), infrastructure (including safe, age-appropriate facilities and transportation), and functioning institutions and processes. It needs to be guided by evidence-based policies, with detailed plans and budgets to activate the policies.


Data and accountability

Building stronger education systems starts with accurate information to find out what is working, and what is not.

A group of people in UNICEF T-shirts sit around a table, working.
UNICEF supports an innovative approach to learning with plans and kits for children aged 1-3 years and 3-5 years in selected refugees settlements in Yumbe District, Uganda.

For education practitioners, information is essential to solve problems, build on good practices, and manage financial and human resources to make sure all children can make long-term gains in learning. Monitoring can help education systems focus on equity – identifying children being left behind and addressing the challenges they face – as well as measuring the quality of schooling, and whether the system is working efficiently.

UNICEF helps strengthen education systems by making more data available. We also support countries in using data to inform policies and more effectively put them into practice.

An education systems also needs to be transparent, so citizens can see how it’s being managed. Parents, students, teachers and other community members need ways to give feedback to decision-makers at all levels– from individual schools to the national level.

UNICEF works closely with governments and partners to make schools accountable to ensure a quality education for all children. We help strengthen local planning and financial management and help develop school improvement plans.

Read how Data Must Speak , a collaboration with UNESCO IIEP Pôle de Dakar and funded by the Global Partnership for Education and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is bolstering accountability by promoting communication between education systems and the community.


Innovation in Education

What is innovation?

Innovation does not just mean new technology. Educational innovation can be found in processes, services, programmes and partnerships. To be truly innovative, an intervention should:

Goodwill Ambassador Lilly Singh stands at a table, talking with young people.

Improve learning, equity and systems

A teacher in a blue shirt writes on a blackboard.

Solve a real problem in a simple and clear way (be demand-driven)

A young man sits in an easy chair on a roof, reading a book.

Match the scale of the problem it is trying to solve.

Some innovations do capitalize on new technologies – for instance, putting math lessons on durable tablets powered by open-source software for children in hard-to-reach areas in Sudan, or using SMS on mobile phones to identify bottlenecks that impede quality education for marginalized children in Peru.

Others draw on the creativity and experience of communities, such as a programme in Ghana that uses play to enhance young children’s learning and development.

Many innovators are already at work in schools, classrooms, communities and civil society organizations. UNICEF works to identify them, help them show their impact, broker partnerships, and transform the lives of the most marginalized children.

A group of teenage girls look at a cellphone, South Africa
On 22 July 2018 in South Africa, (right) UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lilly Singh interacts with adolescents (centre) Phumali, 13 years old, and (left) Thandoluhe, 16 years old, during a visit to the Isibindi Safe Park in Soweto.


UNICEF, a catalyst for innovation

UNICEF is uniquely positioned to be a driving force in educational innovation.

Present in 190 countries, we can leverage our resources and global reach to find innovations, draw lessons, and share good practices. We can help adapt and expand successful interventions and approaches to reach the most marginalized children and improve learning outcomes for all.  

UNICEF’s approach to innovations in education can be summarized in five steps:

  • Scan – identify promising innovations in education
  • Assess – select projects that build on experience, and work in a sustainable, cost-effective way
  • Incubate – offer technical assistance, financing and support
  • Evaluate the results and impact
  • Share learning – from failures and successes alike


UNICEF collaborates with partners to systematically identify, assess and incubate promising innovations.

For example, in 2014, together with the Center for Education Innovations at Results for Development Institute (R4D), we selected a first round of innovations to spur changes in education systems and practices.

Read about Humanitarian Innovation Accelerator, a partnership of UNICEF, DFID and UNHCR that tackles education in emergencies through innovation. The programme supports innovative teams by providing resources for evaluation, mentorship, as well as opportunities for additional resources and new partnerships.

Read our report on Innovations in Education.

Learn about other innovations with this interactive map.