UNICEF calls for strengthened digital learning opportunities in schools

13 December 2022
Betangnga Nantei, 12, smiles with a mobile phone showing his favorite science lesson on Learning Passport
UNICEFPacific/2021/Iwakuni
Betangnga Nantei, 12, smiles with a mobile phone showing his favorite science lesson on the Learning Passport, a UNICEF-supported online platform helping children and young people continue their education amidst COVID-19.

NEW YORK, 13 December 2022 – An important UNICEF report released today highlights the need for effective, quality, inclusive, and equitable digital learning opportunities to complement other learning approaches and help schoolchildren catch up on what they missed during the pandemic and the pre-existing learning crisis.

“Nearly 90 per cent of National Statements of Commitment made at the Transforming Education Summit highlighted digital learning and the need to strengthen it,” said UN Special Adviser for the Summit, Leonardo Garnier. “To truly harness the potential of technology, we need to avoid simply replicating in the digital form the mistakes made in traditional in-person instruction. When applied with sound pedagogical approaches, technology can help putting learners at the center, enabling the creation of student communities bonded by common questions and interests.”

The report, Pulse Check on Digital Learning, examines the current state of digital learning by focusing on five vitals, including policies and financing, platforms and content, teachers and school leadership, digital literacy, and holistic learning opportunities, with the aim of transforming education systems. It also features the first-ever mapping of 471 national platforms in 184 countries by UNICEF and EdTech Hub. 

The results show promising trends across many countries, such as the development of digital platforms, reassessment of priorities, and innovative partnerships. But stagnation is putting the progress achieved during the past few years at risk of regression. Findings include:

  • Although half the world’s population is still offline, over 70 per cent of platforms do not offer offline functionality. Just 49 per cent of platforms in high-income countries and 18 per cent of platforms in low-income countries can be run offline.
  • Majority of platforms, 67 per cent, do not provide engaging content despite interactivity being a central component of student-focused learning, with most offering only static content such as videos and PDFs of textbooks.
  • Only 22 per cent of digital learning platforms contain features to make them accessible to children with disabilities. Even among the few, the provisions are basic, such as closed captions for videos.
  • Critically, 85 per cent of platforms were mobile-friendly, the most commonly available modality for learning in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Most digital learning platforms (84%) offered features using all of a country’s national languages.

The report calls on policymakers, private sector, research agencies, international and local organizations, and civil society to prioritize a holistic approach to education. This includes the incorporation of digital learning in national policies and plans; increasing resources dedicated to digital learning; addressing the digital and usage divides; training and empowering teachers and school leaders, as well as learners and caregivers; and meeting schoolchildren where they are in their learning through entertaining and educational content and a mix of technologies.

“Today, governments are at a pivotal point of either failing to educate an entire generation, or making trend-altering investments in cost-effective initiatives, including digital learning, to transform their education systems,” said UNICEF Director of Education, Robert Jenkins.

UNICEF is supporting Pacific Island countries, in coordination with other partners, to strengthen digital learning systems, capacities and opportunities in ways that support relevant, quality, and equitable learning for all. UNICEF works in line with country priorities to transform education systems to ensure every child is able to claim their right to quality education in everyday classrooms, as well as in emergency situations.

UNICEF is at the forefront of equitable approaches to edtech efforts, so every child is offered personalized learning through world-class digital solutions. This includes the most recent multi-partner initiative launched at the Transforming Education Summit by UNICEF and UNESCO – Gateways to Public Digital Learning – to create and strengthen inclusive digital learning platforms and content.

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For more information, please contact:

Sara Alhattab, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 957 6536, salhattab@unicef.org

Media contacts

Zubnah Khan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Pacific
Tel: +679 330 0439 Ext. 175
Tel: 9988137

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/

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