Global Annual Results Report 2020: Goal Area 2
Ensuring that every child has access to education and the opportunity to develop the skills needed for life and work
Every child learns
In 2020, UNICEF’s education programmes reached far more children than at any other time in its history. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF provided educational materials to more than 43 million children, compared with 12 million in 2019. UNICEF was an early advocate for continuity of learning during school closures, and the reopening of schools, as societies reopened.
UNICEF advocated for accelerating and scaling up of digital learning solutions to ensure continuity of learning and resilience of education systems to future shocks. The focus remained on all children, including the marginalized, girls, refugees, children on the move, children with disabilities and those living in poverty and minority communities. UNICEF’s efforts to keep education moving forward, despite the challenges of the pandemic, have provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine education, to remove long-standing barriers to learning through innovation and to leapfrog to the future with stronger partnerships.
Equitable access to education
43% of UNICEF-supported countries
have equitable education systems
54% of UNICEF-supported countries
have an inclusive system for children with disabilities
42% of countries
have gender-responsive education systems for access
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools across the world, disrupting education for 1.6 billion children and young people at its peak. It also further exposed and deepened disparities and inequities, most prominently the gender and digital divides. At least one in three children have been unable to access remote learning while their schools were closed, with girls more likely to be left behind.
In response to these challenges, UNICEF rapidly shifted gears early in 2020 to focus on maintaining or restoring children’s access to learning, with a heavy emphasis on helping countries push back against the heartbreaking growth in inequality.
Reaching the most disadvantaged
For children with disabilities, children from ethnolinguistic minorities, migrant and displaced children, school closures meant additional challenges in accessing remote learning. UNICEF focused on ensuring that these learners, and those who were out of school prior to the pandemic, had equitable opportunities to continue learning.
370,000 users are accessing a mobile application for learners with disabilities
723,540 students (50 per cent girls) benefited from UNICEF-produced learning materials for teachers and families with children with disabilities through the 'Aprendo en Casa' ('Learning at Home') programme
348,000 children (47 per cent girls) benefited from UNICEF’s inclusive education programme
Gender-responsive access to education
The COVID-19 crisis threatens to undo two decades of progress in girls’ education worldwide. The number of girls out of school had decreased from 203.5 million in 2000 to 129.2 million in 2018. While more girls are in school today than ever before, many are still left behind. In 2020, UNICEF had to shift its focus from accelerating gains in girls’ education, to limiting the damages brought about by school closures and by an increase in gender-based violence during those closures. Distance education did not replace classroom-based learning, but it did support continuity of learning; it also helped to cement the value of girls’ education, even if learning occurred out of school. UNICEF support often combined high-tech, low-tech and no-tech approaches.
Education in emergencies
2020 was an unprecedented year, with the largest humanitarian crisis for education spanning every country across the globe. At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, some 1.6 billion learners were affected, almost half of them girls. Continuity of learning was at the top of UNICEF’s education agenda, along with equity and psychosocial support, recognizing that the pandemic would strike particularly hard on children in fragile and conflict-affected settings. In 2020, more than 48 million out-of-school children, primarily in humanitarian situations, were provided with education services.
The Learning Passport
The Learning Passport is a digital platform designed to support remote learning. The partnership between UNICEF and Microsoft on the Learning Passport enabled the rollout of digital learning solutions rapidly and at scale in Timor-Leste, Puntland, Somalia and Jordan.
In 2018 UNICEF and Microsoft embarked on a global partnership focused on empowering, educating, and protecting displaced young people around the world... In 2020, the Learning Passport helped provide students and teachers access to education and critical skills needed to help ensure continuity of education during the COVID crisis.
Improving learning outcomes
Over 43 million children
were provided with individual education/early learning materials, including over 22 million children in emergencies
school management committees were trained
42% of countries
have gender-responsive teaching and learning systems
In 2020, UNICEF doubled down its efforts on both service delivery and system strengthening to improve learning outcomes and increase equity in education systems. UNICEF’s work to strengthen effective education systems for improved learning outcomes covered five dimensions: teacher development, early learning, community participation, mother tongue/multilingual education and learning assessment. Despite learning disruption and the transition to remote learning, UNICEF supported many countries to develop frameworks and procedures to increase system resilience in the future, to strengthen teacher preparedness and to provide students with remedial learning opportunities as soon as schools could reopen.
Learning in the early years
Early childhood provides a critical development window to support the formation of skills that enable children to acquire more complex skills later in life. UNICEF calls for all children to have access to at least one year of quality preschool, giving priority to marginalized children. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, preschools were among the hardest hit, affecting 155 million pre-primary school-age children. UNICEF responded by disseminating COVID-19 safety protocols, providing information and support to parents and working with governments to include kindergartens and preschools in efforts to maintain continuity and to reopen.
Inclusive early education: the Cboard Communicator
Four-year-old Srna Staic is using a blue device loaded with the Cboard Communicator, a free app available from the Google Play Store. The Cboard Communicator helped Srna start pronouncing understandable syllables, and after eight months, she started speaking entire words. Srna is one of the children who received the Communicator thanks to UNICEF’s ‘For every child, a voice’ project.
Quality teaching and learning
The pandemic highlighted the important role of teachers in children’s education and well-being. While teachers themselves were affected by the impact of the pandemic, their creativity, innovation and resilience helped them adjust to the new realities of remote teaching. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF rapidly supported professional development for teachers, shifted gears to maintain continuity of learning by focusing on pedagogical aspects, as well as strengthened teachers’ capacities to support mental health and psycho-social support for children.
Ready to Come Back: Teacher Preparedness Training Package
In the Middle East and North Africa, a module to support teachers working with children with disabilities was developed as part of a broader teacher guide as schools were reopening. The "Ready to Come Back: Teacher Preparedness Training Package" was developed to help teachers reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on daily teaching practices and provide tips and suggestions for teachers to apply in the classroom.
Learning assessment systems
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, some countries revamped their assessment systems to give new priority to assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning through classroom-based continuous assessments; new modalities for delivering assessment tools to students and collecting responses and using formative assessment to help teachers understand the performance level of students when it was time to return to the classroom.
In Mongolia, COVID-19 related school closures affected more than 600,000 children. The Government put learning at the heart of reopening, dedicating the first month of the new school term to the assessment of learning and remedial lessons. UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education and Science in the development and distribution of teacher guidance for remedial classes. Teachers used formative assessments to gauge children’s learning following the school closures period and then adapted lessons accordingly with recap videos and a simple tool to collect feedback from learners.
Community engagement is one of the most effective tools for improving education delivery at the school level. Members of the community participate through parent teacher associations or other local mechanisms to hold school leaders, teachers and themselves accountable. UNICEF’s work on community participation aims to support provision of community-based education where relevant and the training and effectiveness of school management committees or other community-based associations.
Community-based school and alternative learning classes in Afghanistan
Community-based education has proven to be the most effective approach to education for out-of-school children in Afghanistan, particularly girls living in the most marginalized and socially conservative rural communities. In 2020, 174,064 children, 53% girls, graduated from community-based schools and alternative learning classes in Afghanistan.
More than 7.7 million children
participated in skills development programmes
27% of countries
have systems that institutionalize gender-equitable skills
40% of UNICEF-supported countries
are mainstreaming skills development within national education and training systems
Adolescents are growing up in a transforming world affected by technology, migration, climate change and conflict. They need education and skills to become lifelong learners, secure productive work, make informed decisions and positively engage in their communities. In 2020, UNICEF continued to encourage a multiple-pathway approach to education and training which assumes that skills development can take place at different times and in various settings throughout life, both face-to-face and increasingly through remote and hybrid modalities. A high-quality multiple-pathway approach promotes equity and inclusiveness by offering more opportunities to reconcile social norms and expectations, home duties, work and learning prospects.
Skills development from early years to upper secondary
Adolescent girls and boys, from the early years through secondary education, need support to achieve meaningful learning outcomes, including through accredited flexible learning opportunities for those who cannot participate in formal education. More than 61.5 million adolescents (10-19 years old) of lower secondary school age are out of school. Many children in school are over-age for their grade or learning very little. At current rates of progress, 825 million school-age children in low and middle-income countries will not develop basic secondary-level skills by 2030. In 2020, UNICEF continued its work to make sure adolescents develop a comprehensive set of skills (foundational, transferable, job-specific and digital skills) that will prepare them for life and work.
Adolescent Skills Framework in Bangladesh
To address the significant mismatch between education, skills training and jobs, Generation Unlimited, in partnership with UNICEF, is supporting the government of Bangladesh to roll out an ambitious Adolescent Skills Framework. Currently, Generation Unlimited, UNICEF, the National Curriculum and Textbook Board and the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, are piloting the newly developed national curriculum framework across secondary education institutions.
Gender equality in skills development
Investing in girls’ and young women’s economic skills development is one of the most urgent and effective means to drive progress on gender equality, poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth. In many countries, however, this does not translate into employability because of restrictive gender norms that limit what girls can do. UNICEF supports gender-responsive programmes and innovations to create a bridge between secondary education and the world of work.
Following school closures in Kyrgyzstan, the girls-in-science project, STEM4Girls, adapted all capacity-building events to an online format, allowing girls to continue peer-training. Peer trainers gained skills to lead online learning sessions for their peers on gender equality, gender-based violence, STEM, leadership skills and more.
Non-formal education and community-based skills development
UNICEF uses cross-sectoral approaches to contribute to equity and inclusiveness in skills development. Interventions are delivered through non-formal education and skills training, as well as in community settings, to respond to the educational needs of marginalized adolescents. UNICEF supports ‘second-chance’ education for adolescents who did not complete primary and secondary education, combining foundational literacy and numeracy with the 21st century skills needed to participate in the workforce.
In 2020, UNICEF’s focus has been to support continuity of learning opportunities and advocating for and supporting the safe re-opening of schools. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that the digital divide remains a substantial challenge to deliver equitable and quality alternative learning opportunities for children and adolescents. UNICEF launched the global “Reimagine Education” initiative to foster partnerships between public and private sectors and young people to ensure access to digital education for the most vulnerable children.
Reimagine Education: Digital learning roll out
More than half of the world’s children and young people are on the ‘wrong’ side of the digital divide. Now is a once in a generation opportunity to transform education systems and proactively reach the marginalized. Digital learning is one tool we need for this transformation.
UNICEF’s Reimagine Education, Generation Unlimited and Giga have the potential to quite literally change the world, making it more connected, more equitable and more resilient in the face of external shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reimagine Education is UNICEF’s flagship initiative which seeks to enable every child and young person (3.5 billion by 2030) to access digital learning.
Generation Unlimited is on a mission to skill and connect the world’s 1.8 billion young people (10 – 24 years) to opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and civic engagement.
Giga is an initiative launched by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union aiming to ensure connectivity in every school around the world.
Putting Gender at the Forefront of the COVID-19 Education Response: Common Messaging Framework
The Common Messaging Framework, developed with partner and ally organisations, leverages the power of collective action and joint, shared advocacy for uninterrupted girls’ education. Published in English, French and Spanish.
Building Back Equal: Girls Back to School Guide (with UNESCO, UNICEF, Malala Fund and Plan International)
This guide provides targeted inputs to ensure continuity of learning during school closures, and comprehensive, timely and evidence-based plans for reopening schools in a way that is safe, gender-responsive and child-friendly, and meets the needs of the most marginalized girls.
Towards an equal future: Reimagining girls’ education through STEM
This report seeks to call attention to the potential of STEM education to transform gender norms in the education system, to improve quality learning opportunities for girls and to highlight key actions that can accelerate girls’ transition between education and technical expert jobs in STEM industries.
Averting a lost COVID generation: A six-point plan to respond, recover and reimagine a post-pandemic world for every child
In this policy brief, UNICEF takes stock of the global impact of COVID-19 on children and young people, laying out what we know from available data and research, highlighting what is still unclear as well as the options for action, and urging the world to take bold and unprecedented steps to reimagine a better future for children.
Build to Last: A framework in support of universal quality pre-primary education
This framework outlines the key building blocks of an effective pre-primary subsector that can deliver quality early childhood education at scale.
Global Guidance on Reopening of Early Childhood Education Settings
Co-developed with the World Bank and UNESCO, this guidance note outlines key principles and practical measures for decision-makers to consider before, during and after the transition from closure to reopening. It focuses on safe operations in early childhood education settings, staff training and support, child well-being and development and parental communication and support.
COVID-19: Trends, Promising Practices and Gaps in Remote Learning for Pre-Primary Education
This paper examines the remote learning options (online, television, radio, paper- or mobile-based) that countries around the world have made available for pre-primary students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights trends, gaps and emerging good practices that are supported by existing evidence. A brief summarizes the key findings and observations from the paper.
COVID-19: Are children able to continue learning during school closures?
This global analysis estimates the potential reach of digital and broadcast remote learning policy responses, finding that at least 463 million students around the globe remain cut off from education, mainly due to a lack of remote learning policies or lack of equipment needed for learning at home.
This report highlights the achievements made possible by the generous contributions of softly earmarked thematic funding received from various partners. UNICEF would like to express it's sincere appreciation for these contributions.
2020 was a truly unprecedented year for children around the world. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF used its on-the-ground capacity to support governments in mobilizing a response across education systems to urgently implement alternative learning measures and innovative approaches. UNICEF leveraged the diversity, resources and expertise of resource partners from the public and private sector to ensure all children, even those out-of-school before the pandemic, were reached with learning opportunities.
This report summarizes how UNICEF and its partners contributed to Goal Area 2 in 2020 and reviews the impact of these accomplishments on children and the communities in which they live.