Global Annual Results Report 2021: Every child learns
Goal Area 2: Progress, results achieved and lessons from 2021
Recognizing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on marginalized children, UNICEF scaled up interventions in 2021 to protect children’s right to education and protect them from the worst effects of the pandemic and school closures.
43 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
have equitable education systems
52 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
had national school-related gender-based violence prevention and response mechanisms
UNICEF worked closely with its partners in 2021 to limit the negative impacts of the pandemic on children’s education and well-being. Despite the growing financial gaps to address the exponentially increasing needs of children, UNICEF continued its on-the-ground leadership in action for shoring up access to education. UNICEF was an early voice in advocating for school re-openings and ensuring response and recovery plans include concrete measures for access to quality learning for all children, particularly marginalized children who have suffered a disproportionate impact from the pandemic. Over the course of 2021, the organization developed several global public goods, including data and guidance for use by all partners to enable children to resume learning, and guidelines for children with disabilities, for accelerated learning and for safe school reopening. UNICEF helped to develop several tools aimed at improving opportunities for girls, including those who are trying to complete their education in an emergency context. UNICEF also prepared guidelines for addressing the needs of refugee children, and to support their mental health needs during school closures and upon their return to school.
For every child, inclusion
In 2021, UNICEF launched the first-ever comprehensive global report on the situation of children with disabilities, Seen, Counted, Included: Using data to shed light on the well-being of children with disabilities covering more than 60 indicators of child well-being, including education, nutrition and health, access to water and sanitation, and protection from violence and exploitation. In addition, a new global education database was published to unpack educational inequalities among children with disabilities, reporting access, completion and learning outcome data in 32 countries and territories.
Gender-responsive access to education
In 2021, UNICEF strengthened its support to evidence-based country programming for girls through the development of several important tools and resources with partners, including:
Reimagining Girls’ Education: Solutions to Keep Girls Learning in Emergencies developed through technical partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and financial partnership with GPE.
The Brief on Gender Transformative Education that provides an overview of related terms, concepts and approaches, developed in partnership with UNGEI, Transform Education and Plan International.
Addressing learning loss in the State of Palestine
48 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
have effective education systems for learning outcomes
61 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
have effective early childhood education systems for learning outcomes
45 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
have a gender-responsive teaching and learning education system
During school closures due to the pandemic, students missed out on 2 trillion hours of in-person instruction. On average, schools were closed for 224 days. To make up for the learning losses children experienced due to COVID-19, in 2021 UNICEF significantly increased the share of its spending devoted to improving learning outcomes across five dimensions: teacher development, early learning, community participation, mother tongue/multilingual education and learning assessment. UNICEF provided an unprecedented number of learning materials to children, and trained 85,586 school management committees, more than ever before, in an effort to maintain the links between home and school during the period of school closures and to move quickly towards safe school reopening.
Foundational learning to recover learning losses
To support learning recovery, UNICEF launched the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Hub (FLN), in collaboration with the World Bank Group, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), J-PAL, Pratham and Delivery Associates to provide a rich repository of resources for use by practitioners and decision makers. UNICEF and partners in the FLN Initiative, also launched the first-ever FLN Academy, a multi-module online course designed as a professional development and knowledge sharing journey.
Watch the UNICEF FLN Hub Introduction
33 million children
participated in skills development programmes
28 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
have systems that institutionalize gender-equitable skills
45 per cent of UNICEF-supported countries
are mainstreaming skills development within national education and training systems
In 2021, UNICEF’s chief focus was to continue to provide every opportunity for the most vulnerable children, children in conflict-affected areas, girls, children with disabilities, and other marginalized groups to be able to continue learning and gaining the skills needed to thrive in their learning journey and future work.
Scaling up digital learning solutions with the Learning Passport
UNICEF’s flagship Reimagine Education initiative helped double down on scaling up of digital learning solutions and rallying a diverse set of partners, including the private sector, to make digital learning a reality for every child, including the most marginalized in no-/low-tech contexts. Diversifying and expanding partnerships, in light of the response to the pandemic and education recovery, allowed UNICEF to reach children at scale and speed, through solutions such as the Learning Passport, in partnership with Microsoft, that was launched in 13 countries in 2021. By the end of the year, it had reached nearly 2 million children, youth, educators and caregivers with educational content to support continuous learning. The Learning Passport was selected as one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2021 and nominated as a finalist in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards for 2021.
The Learning Passport began pilot testing of its offline model commenced in Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe in 2021. See how it works in Zimbabwe.
Accelerating education recovery and transformation "RAPID-ly"
Now is the time for accelerating education recovery and transformative action to ensure that every child (particularly the most marginalized including girls, children with disabilities and children in fragile contexts) is fully supported in the key transitions of their learning journey: getting children ready for school, ensuring they have basic foundational numeracy and literacy, and they develop a full range of skills for adulthood. UNICEF is calling on partners to take urgent action to recover the learning losses by:
Reaching every child,
Assessing their learning,
Prioritizing teaching the fundamentals,
Increasing catch-up learning, and,
Developing psychosocial health and wellbeing.
Despite the urgent need to recover the learning losses and prevent a learning catastrophe, there is an alarming lack of investment in education. On average, countries allocated only 3 per cent of their COVID-19 stimulus package to education. In low- and lower-middle-income countries, that figure is even less than 1 per cent. This is compounded by a decline in official development assistance (ODA) that fell from 8.8 per cent in 2019 to 5.5 per cent in 2020.
The stakes are high. More than ever, UNICEF requires funding to recover and transform education and sustain its world-wide education programmes to support quality learning for every child.
A special thanks to the Government of Norway, the largest contributor to Education thematic funding, for continued support and partnership.
Partner testimonial from Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Norwegian Minister of International Development:
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.
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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was already facing a learning crisis: over 260 million children had never set foot in a classroom, and those in school did not necessarily learn and acquire necessary skills. Recognizing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on marginalized children, UNICEF scaled up interventions focused on continuity of learning during school closures and getting learning back on track for marginalized children who were most impacted by the pandemic. This report documents the unstinting efforts of UNICEF staff around the world to protect children’s rights to education and protect them from the worst effects of the pandemic and school closures. It also offers a sober acknowledgement of the grave impacts of the pandemic on children’s education, the exacerbated inequities, the growing learning loss, and new obstacles placed in the path of children eager to learn. The report demonstrates the determination of UNICEF to support countries in building back better, to restore pathways to learning, and develop more resilient education systems going forward.