UNICEF warns of shockingly low levels of learning, with only a third of 10-year-olds globally estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story

Ahead of the Transforming Education Summit, UNICEF unveils the ‘Learning Crisis Classroom’ at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to draw attention to the urgent need to transform education systems worldwide

16 September 2022
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UNICEF/UN0703363/Chris Farber/UNICEF

NEW YORK, 16 September 2022 – Ahead of the Transforming Education Summit, UNICEF warns of shockingly low levels of learning, with only a third of 10-year-olds globally estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story, down from half pre-pandemic.

“Under resourced schools, underpaid and underqualified teachers, over-crowded classrooms and archaic curricula are undermining our children’s ability to reach their full potential,” said Catherine Russell UNICEF Executive Director. “The trajectory of our education systems is, by definition, the trajectory of our future. We need to reverse current trendlines or face the consequences of failing to educate an entire generation. Low levels of learning today mean less opportunity tomorrow.” 

Prolonged school closures and a lack of access to quality learning during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated a pre-existing learning crisis that has left millions of schoolchildren worldwide without foundational numeracy and literacy skills, UNICEF warns.

To draw attention to the education crisis and the need to transform learning worldwide, UNICEF today publicly unveiled the ‘Learning Crisis Classroom,’ a model classroom that represents the scale of children failing to learn critical foundational skills. The installation will be displayed at the visitor’s entrance of United Nations Headquarters in New York between 16 and 26 September.

A third of the desks in the model classroom are made of wood and are fully functioning with an iconic UNICEF backpack placed on the school chair behind it, representing the one-third of 10-year-olds globally estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story - the marker for minimum proficiency in reading comprehension. The remaining two-thirds of desks are almost invisible and made of clear material to signify the 64 per cent of children estimated to be unable to read and understand a simple written story by age 10. 

As leaders meet at the Transforming Education Summit, UNICEF is calling on governments to commit to reaching all children with quality education.  We are urging new effort and investment to re-enroll and retain all children in school, to increase access to remedial and catchup learning, to support teachers and give them the tools they need, and to make sure that schools provide a safe and supportive environment so all children are ready to learn.

Media contacts

Sema Hosta
Chief of Communication
UNICEF in Turkey
Tel: +90 533 622 8346

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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