Widespread learning loss among Ukraine’s children, as students enter fourth year of disruption to education – UNICEF
Continued attacks on education inside Ukraine and low-level enrolment in host countries have left many of Ukraine’s 6.7 million 3–18-year-olds struggling to learn, warns UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Regina De Dominicis
GENEVA/KYIV, 29 August 2023 – Children across Ukraine are showing signs of widespread learning loss, including a deterioration in learning outcomes of the Ukrainian language, reading and mathematics, as the war preceded by the COVID-19 pandemic have left students facing a fourth year of disruption to education.
“Inside Ukraine, attacks on schools have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn. Not only has this left Ukraine’s children struggling to progress in their education, but they are also struggling to retain what they learnt when their schools were fully functioning,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.
According to the latest survey data, up to 57 per cent of teachers report a deterioration in students’ Ukrainian language abilities, up to 45 per cent report a reduction in mathematics skills, and up to 52 per cent report a reduction in foreign language abilities.
According to the latest enrolment data, only one-third of children of primary and secondary age enrolled in school in Ukraine are learning fully in-person. One-third of enrolled students are learning through a mixed approach of in-person and online, and one-third are fully learning online.
Online learning can complement in-person learning and provide a short-term solution, but it cannot fully replace in-person classes, which are especially critical for social development and foundational learning among young children. Ukraine’s ongoing education reform, which seeks to develop competencies of children and young people, is critical to the country’s future socio-economic recovery and development.
According to national survey data, two-thirds of preschool-age children are not attending preschool. In frontline areas, three-quarters of parents report not sending their children to preschool.
For Ukraine’s refugee children, it is also the beginning of another uncertain academic year, with more than half of children from preschool to secondary school age not enrolled in national education systems across seven countries hosting refugees. Pre-schoolers and secondary-age students are the most likely to miss out on their education. Language barriers, difficulty in accessing school, and overstretched education systems are among the reasons for low enrolment rates.
Refugee children who are not enrolled in local schools are likely attempting to study online, either via the Ukrainian curriculum or through other distance learning platforms. Some refugee children may have completely abandoned their education.
In times of crisis or war, schools provide far more than a place of learning. They can provide children who have already endured loss, displacement and violence with a sense of routine and safety, a chance to build friendships and get help from teachers. They can provide access to vaccines, nutrition and services to support children’s mental health and well-being. Adolescents are particularly sensitive, as the natural physical and mental vulnerabilities of their age are exacerbated by disruption of learning and distress that they experience.
UNICEF is working with governments and partners on the ground in Ukraine and countries hosting refugee children and families to help increase access to quality learning. This includes supporting the inclusion of children in national education systems and providing multiple learning pathways for children not currently enrolled. This also means equipping teachers and school staff with the skills needed to integrate all vulnerable children in classrooms, providing language classes and mental health and psychosocial support.
UNICEF is working with the Government of Ukraine to support learning recovery and alignment with regional standards to remove barriers to education and ensure lifelong learning for all. This includes rehabilitating schools and providing much needed catch-up classes in core subjects, with the aim of supporting 300,000 children at risk of learning losses in Ukraine over the coming school year, while providing longer term support through the strengthening of early childhood education systems and services at scale.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org