UNICEF SEA-PLM secondary research reveals link between learning and well-being of children in Southeast Asia

05 May 2023
Child in school
UNICEF and U.S. CDC/Martin San Diego/Highway Child
Children hold classes in a school in Marantao, Lanao del Sur.

Manila, 5 May 2023 — A UNICEF regional secondary analysis report of the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics 2019 database - including the Philippines - reveals the inextricable link between learning and well-being.

The report titled “What does SEA-PLM 2019 tell us about child well-being and learning in six Southeast Asian countries?” gives a deeper insight into children’s attitudes and values in well-being domains, and the relationship between primary Grade 5 children’s well-being and academic learning in the region. The report was developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Research-Innocenti and published by UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (EAPRO) as its contribution to the SEA-PLM Secretariat.

The findings and recommendations in the report are aligned with the conclusions of the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics 2019 (SEA-PLM) report released in 2021.

  • Parental engagement: Higher reading, writing and mathematics scores are associated with a home environment that fosters learning through higher levels of parental engagement and access to books at home. Across the 6 participating countries, the Philippines is the country with the highest gap in learning outcomes between children of highly engaged parents and children of low-engaged parents.
  • Protective school environment: Lower reading, writing, and mathematics scores are associated with exposure to violence at school. According to the data, across the 6 participating countries, the Philippines is also the country with the highest level of bullying in school (63% of children self-reported have been bullied a few times in the last month).
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Higher reading, writing and mathematics scores are associated with access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. 70% of public schools in the Philippines do not have the minimum WASH facilities and provisions, according to Department of Education’s WASH in Schools Three Star ratings system in School Year 2020-2021.
  • Nutrition: Lower reading, writing and mathematics scores are associated with lack of adequate nutrition. Despite more children surviving, millions of Filipino children are failing to grow well amid high levels of stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, and the fast-growing rates of overweight and obesity. 
  • Climate change: There is a strong positive correlation in most of the 6 participating countries between children’s concern for environmental sustainability issues and their learning performance. Other studies have shown that climate crisis disproportionately affects children who are already falling behind in their education, especially girls. Countries that are at extremely high risk such as the Philippines also have the lowest levels of primary school completion and foundational reading skills (UNICEF Children’s Climate Risk Index).

Through this report, UNICEF recommends government institutions to work across sectors; schools, parents and communities to support learners through direct engagement and fostering supportive environments; and researchers, caregivers and policymakers to provide a platform for children’s voices to tap into their perspectives.

“The report illustrates that a child’s well-being and learning outcomes are mutually reinforcing and interconnected. This is especially important for building foundational skills and during early adolescence when rapid physical, emotional and social changes affect growth and development. The insights of children in this report will help government partners and schools to reflect on the current policies and practices and how they can be improved,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov. 

Media contacts

Niko Wieland
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 867 8366
Marge Francia
Advocacy & Communication Specialist
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 858 9447


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For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.

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