As children in Indonesia return to school, UNICEF calls for urgent action to address learning crisis

13 July 2022
Students attend class at Maradekaya II Elementary School in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia.

Jakarta, 13 July 2022 – As children across Indonesia return to school for the new academic year, UNICEF is calling for urgent action to address the alarming impact of COVID-19 on children’s learning, particularly for the most vulnerable students.

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, students and educators in Indonesia and around the world are grappling with a massive learning crisis. A June 2022 report by UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and others finds an estimated 70 per cent of 10-year-olds globally are unable to understand a simple written text, up from 57 per cent before the pandemic.

In Indonesia, extended school closures and disrupted re-openings due to COVID-19 have affected around 60 million students and caused significant learning loss. In some areas of the country, there is evidence of an increase in the percentage of early grade students who are unable to read. This reflects regional and global trends. Underperformance is more acute for children in vulnerable situations, including children from low-income households, rural and disadvantaged areas and those with disabilities.

A recent UNICEF study in Indonesia found that around three in four parents with school-aged children were concerned about their children’s learning loss. A World Bank analysis on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) forecasts a likely 16-point decline in Indonesia’s PISA reading scores among 15-year-old students.

“After the severe and unprecedented shocks to education and learning caused by COVID-19, getting children back into classrooms is an important first step,” said Acting UNICEF Representative Robert Gass. “Learning recovery must be the primary focus of pandemic recovery. It is critical that we support students to catch up on the learning they have lost and to progress beyond this. Without urgent action, many children are at risk of falling so far behind that they will never catch up or may drop out of school altogether. We must do everything we can to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

As Indonesia prepares to host the G20 meeting later this year, where major commitments will be made to address the impact of the pandemic, UNICEF is urging Indonesian decision-makers to ensure that national learning recovery plans include concrete interventions to help children further develop foundational skills – especially literacy and numeracy – as well as 21st century skills, which are essential to obtain better jobs in a fast-changing work market.

To ensure that every child in Indonesia can read by age 10, UNICEF is calling for accelerated actions through the RAPID framework to reach and keep every child in school, assess learning levels regularly, prioritize teaching basic skills, increase catch-up learning and develop stronger systems to support children’s mental health and well-being so that every child is ready to learn.

UNICEF is supporting efforts by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MoECRT) and other relevant ministries to address learning loss. This includes supporting early childhood teachers to help children with catch-up learning, with a focus on literacy and numeracy, through initiatives like the Holistic and Integrated Early Childhood Development (HI-ECD) programme being delivered across three provinces in eastern Indonesia; and working with early grade primary teachers to improve their literacy and numeracy teaching skills. UNICEF is also supporting digital efforts to support the development of 21st century skills among adolescents.

Media contacts

Kinanti Pinta Karana
Communications Specialist
UNICEF Indonesia
Tel: +62 8158805842


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