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Getting into the game

S4D report cover image ChildFund "Pass it Back" activity, Lao PDR.
Sport is a powerful tool for involving all children – including the most marginalized and vulnerable – in group activities from an early age (UNHCR, 2013). This report analyses the available evidence on S4D initiatives for children and youth.

Research Projects

Research Project Research Project


The learning crisis is striking. 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple text by age 10. In poor countries, the “learning poverty” rate is as high as 80 percent. The UNICEF Office of Research (OoR) – Innocenti developed in 2019 a new vision for its education programme for addressing learning poverty, aligned with the 2019-2030 UNICEF Education Strategy ‘Every child learns’. The vision puts increased emphasis on research embedded within programmes and on the use of evidence at country level, through co-creation of the research from the onset with Governments, implementing partners, communities and other stakeholders.  OoR-education programme focuses on research of: i) education systems and policies and ii) local service delivery (in and outside the school); and iii) innovations using behavioral/scaling science & implementation research to build evidence to bridge the “know-do” gap between systems and local level implementation.Time to Teach Teachers attending lessons and spending quality time on task is a critical prerequisite to learning. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, teacher absenteeism ranges from 15 to 45 per cent. The Time to Teach study seeks to identify factors affecting various forms of teacher attendance and to use this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher policies in twenty African countries (the Comoros; Kenya; Mozambique; Rwanda, Puntland, State of Somalia; South Sudan; the United Republic of Tanzania; Uganda; Morocco; the Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Mauritania, Togo, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire; Gabon). The study draws from national, system-wide, qualitative data collections and school observations, and a quantitative survey of teachers.Sport for DevelopmentSport for Development (S4D) programmes use sports to achieve development objectives such as education, health, empowerment and like skills. Collaborating with partners, including the Barça Foundation, this research aims to build the evidence base on the  practice and policy of S4D. Building on the findings of the Getting into the Game report, this mixed-methods study is now conducting case studies of programmes from different countries. By listening to the voices of various stakeholders from different countries it aims to develop guidelines on best practices, advocacy and communication, and monitoring and evaluation for organisations implementing S4D progamming for children.Akelius - Digital language learning for refugees, migrants and linguistic minorities This research programme investigates the co-creation, implementation, effectiveness of the Akelius digital language course.  The digital language course is co-created with teachers and students and used in a blended learning approach as a tool for teachers / facilitators, and as a self-learning tool. Fit for purpose monitoring and implementation research is built into to programme to facilitate improvements in the programme as it scales.  The programme is currently implemented for refugees and migrants in Greece, as part of the non-formal education programmes for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, and as a tool to improve language skills of marginalized children in Mauritania.Data Must Speak (research component)In spite of the learning crisis and even in the most difficult contexts, there are some “positive deviant” schools, that outperform (in terms of learning, gender and equity) other schools in similar contexts and with equivalent resources. Data Must Speak uses mixed-method research on school performance, including behavioral and scaling science and implementation research to identify “positive deviant” practices and behaviors at classroom, school, community and district levels and incentivize their application at scale in all schools, in partnership with Ministries of Education in 8 countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Madagascar, Niger, Togo, Zambia)Let Us Learn – building evidence into education programmes for the most marginalized.Let Us Learn (LUL) is an initiative that supports vulnerable children - especially girls - learning though a variety of education programmes in 5 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal. UNICEF Office of Research- Innocenti and the Education Section in UNICEF HQ are supporting LUL programmes by helping implementing partners to improve their M&E systems and building evidence through mixed methods research to understand programme effectiveness in their contribution to improved education outcomes, including learning.The education team also provides research outside of these multi-year research programmes supporting UNICEF HQ, Regional offices and Country Offices in research on multiple topics including: Private Education in South Asia, Migration and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean and understanding equity in education spending using Benefit Incidence Analysis together with UNICEF’s Education and Social Policy sections in HQ. COVID 19 & ChildrenVisit our COVID-19 & Children website for Research Agenda, Research Publications, Blogs, Think Pieces, Online Events, Good Reads and moreShort-term projectsIdentifying good practices for equitable remote learning during COVID-19 school closuresAnalysis of promising remote learning practices during school closures and effects on the most vulnerable children. Builds on data collected from country offices and other sources.Parental engagement in children’s learning: Insights for remote learning response during COVID-19Analysis of MICS 6 data on the potential of child-oriented books at home and the parental role for learning, especially where low access to technology.Long-term projectLearning from COVID-19 on providing continued education for all in times of school closuresInvestigating the impacts of COVID-19 school closures on education and other outcomes and what works to provide continued learning during crises. The research will draw on available data and ongoing Innocenti research