Global annual results report 2019: Goal Area 2
Progress, results achieved and lessons from 2019 by Goal Area 2: ensuring that every child has access to education and the opportunity to develop the skills needed for life and work
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the key goal of education is the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. The Annual Results Report for Education is an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the past year as UNICEF worked towards that goal – to build on successes and to learn from what went wrong.
A number of significant trends and challenges within the education sector are becoming increasingly apparent. The midterm review of the Strategic Plan, which took place in 2019, demonstrated progress in implementation of all three results areas in Goal Area 2. However, it also highlighted the need to accelerate the rate of progress and to raise the level of ambition around core challenges.
Every child learns
No challenge is greater than that of the learning crisis. According to the World Bank, 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries are “learning poor” – they cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school. The UNICEF Education Strategy acknowledges that at current trends, by 2030, 420 million children will fail to attain basic skills in childhood, and 825 million will fail to attain basic secondary-level skills. In 2019 UNICEF spent 1.2 billion on education to tackle the learning crisis.
UNICEF increasingly directs its efforts towards the most vulnerable children, to help them learn. The number of children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict and crisis surged to a record high in 2017 and has remained at that level throughout 2018 and 2019. Many of the children trying to learn are doing so in education systems that face multiple challenges simultaneously, including conflict, disease outbreaks and the growing impact of climate change.
The world has changed in ways that we must adapt to; we must urgently find new ways of working under these new circumstances, before the widespread lack of access to learning forms a habit that the international community has learned to tolerate.
In 2019, over 800 education staff worked to implement education programmes across the globe. The majority were deployed at the country level, including in fragile and conflict-affected countries or in remote locations where the needs were greatest. Staff provided access to evidence and global best practices and contributed to shaping global education policies and partnerships.
Equitable access to education
258 million children, adolescents and youth are out of school, representing one sixth of the global population of this age group. UNICEF reaches the most disadvantaged children through initiatives at all levels of education systems. Countries have been supported to make inclusive and preschool education an integral part of their sector plans and targeted programmes have addressed the needs of out-of-school children, children with disabilities, and refugee children.
17.5 million children
37% of countries
have equitable education systems for access
38% of countries
have gender-responsive education systems for access
Inclusive education helps children with disabilities to learn in a mainstream classroom context, while providing the additional support they need. It also helps all children work towards achieving their potential by helping teachers tailor instruction to learners’ individual needs.
Accessible Digital Textbooks for All
UNICEF provided technical support and guidance for the Accessible Digital Textbooks for All initiative in Kenya, Paraguay, Rwanda, Uganda and Uruguay. UNICEF and its partners are driving an innovative solution to make textbooks available, affordable and accessible for children with disabilities in all contexts.
“I can use it myself”
Reaching the most disadvantaged
UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire piloted an innovative construction method using bricks made from recycled plastic waste in partnership with the Colombian social enterprise Conceptos Plásticos. There are now 26 functional classrooms which are operational throughout the country. This alternative method is faster than traditional methods, reducing classroom construction time by up to three weeks (from six months) and is safe and easy to use. At the same time, the collection of plastic waste creates jobs for disadvantaged communities and contributes to reducing plastic pollution.
Education in emergencies
Countries around the world are facing a learning crisis which is most severe in countries affected by conflicts and disasters: more than half of the 20 countries with the lowest levels of learning experienced humanitarian crisis situations in 2018. In crisis-affected countries, 128 million children of primary and secondary age are out of school.
After the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, UNICEF provided humanitarian support to millions of children within the country, as well as those migrating across the Latin America and the Caribbean region. In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, UNICEF promoted a school feeding pilot which benefited over 7,600 children (3,842 girls) in Miranda state. This intervention was complemented by the distribution of educational material in seven states, reaching close to 5,800 teachers and over 285,000 children (146,724 girls), which has had a direct and documented impact on school attendance and on retention of teachers.
"Schools provide stability, structure and routine — all counterbalances to the loss, fear, stress and violence that the children of conflict endure every day. And in every society, education provides a pathway to prosperity — and even peace".
Improving learning outcomes
There are many encouraging programmes that have shown dramatic improvements for children when learning outcomes are highlighted and measured. These include programmes to improve learning in the early years, which are crucial to success later. Learning assessments must provide information to parents, teachers and policymakers about how to improve teaching and learning. And all children in all contexts, both boys and girls, must have equal access to good learning.
children received learning materials
school management committees received training
48% of countries
have effective education systems for learning outcomes
36% of countries
have gender-responsive teaching and learning systems
Learning in the early years
The global learning crisis is largely caused by a failure to invest in quality Early Childhood Education (ECE), meaning many children start school already behind in a range of vital skills. In low-income countries, 8 out of 10 children are not enrolled in ECE, and less than 2 per cent of the overall education budget is allocated to the pre-primary subsector. The very children who would benefit most from ECE are the least likely to enrol.
A highlight of 2019 was the launch by UNICEF of its first global report on pre-primary education, A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education. This report makes the case for investment in ECE and outlines a set of practical recommendations for governments and partners to make quality ECE universal and an integral part of education systems.
Learning assessment systems
Helping countries build effective learning assessment systems is a priority of the new UNICEF Education Strategy. The goal is to ensure that assessments provide disaggregated data to inform the design of measures to improve learning outcomes for all children. UNICEF works with ministries of education around the world to tailor the approach, based on country need and capacity.
UNICEF supported 564,809 children to sit their exams
UNICEF provided supervised transport outside camps to test sites for students sitting the Grade 12 examination
almost 12,000 children were helped to participate in end-of-primary examinations
A high level of community engagement is an important lever to improve education delivery at the school level. UNICEF provides support such as development of policies, guidelines, regulatory frameworks, training materials and feedback to communities and schools. Overall, the aim is to support provision of community-based education where relevant, and to improve the effectiveness of school management committees or other community-based associations (i.e. parent–teacher and mothers’ associations).
Data must speak
To address challenges that keep children from going to school and learning, decision makers need data. In collaboration with national stakeholders, Data Must Speak develops context-specific tools and resources for understanding education data. These materials can be shared with and adapted for other country settings, arming communities around the world with information on how their schools are resourced and how they perform relative to others.
There is an urgent need to expand, rethink and transform education and learning systems to provide all children and adolescents, especially those who are marginalized and in conflict and emergency settings, with quality learning opportunities that include the skills they need to succeed in school, work and life.
4.1 million children
participated in skills development programmes
23% of countries
have systems that institutionalize gender-equitable skills
Gender equality in skills development
In many countries, progress in educational achievement among girls and young women is not translating into employability, because of barriers to skills development opportunities, such as restrictive gender norms that prescribe what girls should and should not do.
While 14 per cent of adolescent boys and young men between 14 and 24 years old were not in education, employment or training in 2019, the figure was 24 per cent for adolescent girls and young women. Responding to the need for equipping adolescent girls with skills for employment, including in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and digital technologies, UNICEF is supporting gender-responsive programmes and innovations that help bridge secondary education with the world of work.
UNICEF Zambia launched the Zambian Girls 2030 programme in 2019, focusing on entrepreneurship, financial literacy, career guidance and corporate mentoring. The programme aims to empower adolescent girls by providing them with the skills they need to improve their lives, and contributes to the realization of Zambia’s Vision 2030. Currently, Zambian Girls 2030 targets almost 15,000 adolescent girls in Grades 5–12 in two provinces. Schools are selected based on indicators such as gender parity, dropout rates, occurrence of early child marriages and teenage pregnancy, and girls’ transition and completion levels.
Non-formal education and community-based skills development
UNICEF uses a variety of approaches to contribute to gender equality and overall inclusiveness in skills development through non-formal education and skills training as well as in community settings.
UNICEF Tanzania has supported in the development of the Integrated Programme for Out of School Adolescents (IPOSA). The programme includes vocational training, entrepreneurship skills, life skills and literacy and numeracy skills. IPOSA has trained over 12,000 adolescents (of whom 53 per cent are girls). IPOSA surpassed its target of enrolling 5,000 learners by the end of 2019.
State of Palestine
In 2019, a total of 8,386 adolescents aged between 13 and 17 years (including 4,814 adolescent girls, and 223 children living with disabilities) were empowered through entrepreneurial and civic engagement skills-building programmes. After the skills training, 2,648 adolescents organized and conducted 351 initiatives and social enterprises that helped to address the identified challenges in schools and communities.
The UNICEF Adolescent Strategy for Rohingya and Host Community Response, launched in April 2019, aims to provide 18,000 Rohingya and 7,600 host community adolescents with integrated vocational, literacy/numeracy, life skills and psychosocial support through 109 multipurpose centres.
As this report was being prepared, the world was in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The full impact of the crisis will be extraordinary and will last for many years in ways that are still unclear. The COVID-19 crisis comes at a particularly challenging moment for the education sector. Even prior to the pandemic, the world was off track to achieve universal access to quality education and learning by 2030.
The mid-term review of UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021, showed that UNICEF is on track to achieve Goal Area 2 targets, but that too many children and youth still fail to learn and that the SDG targets, at current pace of progress, will be missed.
UNICEF intends to build on the increasing evidence on the effectiveness of approaches to transforming education systems to improve learning as well as the growth of technology and the increasingly broad range of partners providing learning opportunities.
The new Education Strategy defines the position of UNICEF in relation to the work the organization needs to do in Goal Area 2 to increase its contribution towards the SDGs and the realization of children’s rights. It builds on the conviction that the key goal of education is for every child to learn.
For the next two years, in Goal Area 2, the focus will be on addressing the learning crisis and closing the gap between the ambition for a universal right to quality education and its implementation.