Are children really learning?

Exploring foundational skills in the midst of a learning crisis

reopening of schools, COVID schools closures, learning, Education, UNICEF report, reopen schools, teachers, pupils, students, COVID-19, COVID19
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Wamala


The COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when the world was already grappling with a serious learning crisis in which many children were not mastering the fundamentals of reading and numeracy even if attending school. With widespread school closures and other disruptions to the education system brought about by the pandemic, the learning crisis has escalated to new heights. While the number of out-of-school children had already started to climb for the first time in 20 years in 2020, by all accounts the increase has begun accelerating. Children have to get back to the classroom, but changes are needed to ensure that they really learn, starting with the foundational basics of reading and numeracy. Improvements in teacher training, greater investment in teaching resources, and a focus on foundational skills will help turn the tide and set children on a path to educational growth and discovery. 

This report offers unique insight into the extent of the learning crisis by providing an in-depth picture of which children are most at risk of not acquiring foundational learning skills. The analysis of 32 low- and middle-income countries and territories uses newly released data from surveys undertaken in 2017-2021 as part of Round 6 of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS6) to examine the equity perspectives of the crisis, exploring learning outcomes among different subgroups of children, with a focus on the most vulnerable. Simulations are also carried out to preview the extent to which learning
loss has occurred as a result of the pandemic, as well as determine the impact of different strategies to overcome these losses. Finally, the report examines timely concerns of remote learning readiness in the event of school closures and draws links between this pressing matter and learning outcomes.

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