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Navigating through COVID-19: Unlocking Solutions for Education Organizations

(Past event)

Event type: Webinar

Related research: Education

events6 May 2020

On May 6 2020, UNICEF Innocenti's Tom Dreesen joins the Magic Schoolbus Webinar Series on Navigating through COVID-19: Unlocking Solutions for Education Organizations. 

Hosted by Magic Bus India, panelists from the field of education, across the globe discussed the effects of #COVID19 on learning in education organisations and exploring solutions.

WATCH the webinar in full on Facebook:


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Thomas Dreesen

UNICEF Innocenti

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Promising Practices for Equitable Remote Learning. Emerging lessons from COVID-19 education responses in 127 countries
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Promising Practices for Equitable Remote Learning. Emerging lessons from COVID-19 education responses in 127 countries

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on societies, globally. To help contain the spread of the disease, schools around the world have closed, affecting 1.6 billion learners – approximately 91 per cent of the world’s enrolled students. Governments and education stakeholders have responded swiftly to continue children’s learning, using various delivery channels including digital tools, TV/radio-based teaching and take-home packages for parent or carer-guided education. However, the massive scale of school closures has laid bare the uneven distribution of the technology needed to facilitate remote learning. It has also highlighted the lack of preparedness and low resilience of systems to support teachers, facilitators and parents/caregivers in the successful and safe use of technology for learning. Using data on access to technology from household surveys (MICS and DHS) and information on national education responses to school closures gathered from UNICEF education staff in over 120 countries, this brief explores potential promising practices for equitable remote learning.
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A global learning crisis is undermining children’s education and their futures. Pre-COVID, more than half of children in low- and middle-income countries could not read and understand a simple text by age 10. In poor countries, this “learning poverty” rate was as high as 80 percent. Due to COVID-19, an additional 10 percent of children globally will fall into learning poverty. UNICEF Innocenti’s education research looks to address the learning crisis to ensure that every child learns.
Remote Learning Amid a Global Pandemic: Insights from MICS6
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Remote Learning Amid a Global Pandemic: Insights from MICS6

  This post is the first in a series of articles focused on helping children continue to learn at home during the COVID-19 global pandemic, emphasizing the need for multiple remote learning platforms to meet the needs of all students.   While some countries are now moving to reopen schools, nearly 1.3 billion children are still out of school and dependent on remote learning, due to nationwide shutdowns. As national educational systems strive to meet this challenge, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data offer some important insights into how we can ensure every child has an equal opportunity to learn remotely.  Among other key insights, the MICS data highlights that many children and youth still do not have internet access at home, and household wealth is the biggest determinant of home internet access.  This underscores the importance of providing different learning tools, at the same time as we accelerate access to the internet for every school and every child, including through UNICEF's GIGA initiative. IT-enabled learning will be a critical part of the remote learning toolbox, including offline options. UNICEF will continue to advocate for innovative solutions to provide connectivity for every school and every student. Meanwhile, governments must also continue to invest in other distance learning technologies, such as the use of television and radio broadcasts, and 'take-home' printed materials, in order to reach all school-age students. This has been summarized in UNICEF's Remote Learning COVID-19 Response Decision Tree.   Providing the world's disadvantaged and marginalized children with equitable access to learning opportunities is foundational to creating a sustainable future and must be a priority for the global education sector.  Many of the world's children do not have internet access at home   There are wide disparities in wealth and corresponding differences in access to digital technology, both between and within countries. Globally, many schools lack the resources to invest in digital learning, and many children from poorer households do not have internet access. MICS6 data show that in countries like Bangladesh, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mongolia, Pakistan (Punjab), Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, more than half of children aged between 5-17 who are attending school do not have internet access at home. In Democratic Republic of Congo and Lao PDR, fewer than two per cent of children attending school have internet access at home. Of the 18 countries examined, only Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Montenegro had internet access in more than 70 per cent of households.   Household wealth is the biggest determinant of internet access    Household wealth and internet access are strongly linked. Students from the richest 20 per cent of households are the most likely to be able to continue learning via the internet. In some countries, internet access among the poorest 20 per cent of households is almost non-existent. Countries with low levels of internet access overall also have the highest levels of inequality of internet access between rich and poor. In Madagascar, Togo and Sierra Leone, less than 30 per cent of the population has internet access, and this access is distributed unequally across wealth levels. In all the three countries, the wealthiest 20 per cent of households comprise more than 60 percent of those with internet access. These data illustrate why, in the short term, the internet alone is not enough to ensure inclusive, equitable education, particularly in countries that were already experiencing a learning crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that education sector responses be carefully designed to meet the learning needs of poor and disadvantaged children, so this crisis doesn't leave them even further behind.   The link between internet learning solutions and reading skills   A key insight provided by MICS6 data is that children with internet access at home also have substantially higher foundational reading skills. Well-designed digital learning platforms have the potential to provide interactive and engaging remote education, which could greatly benefit disadvantaged students, if they had access. This again shows why investment in connectivity in disadvantaged areas must be a priority. Information like this can help education stakeholders in all countries develop strategies and solutions targeted at helping children from poor households continue to learn in today's challenging environment.   Strategies for successful remote learning: internet, television, radio and 'take-home' printed materials Governments, schools and teachers around the world are looking for the best immediate solutions to provide remote learning opportunities during school closures. Afghanistan is broadcasting programmes that cover the national curriculum via television and radio. Argentina, Iran, Morocco and Viet Nam have all adopted hybrid approaches that rely on a mix of online learning for those who have internet access, and educational programming offered via television or radio for those who do not. Some countries are also delivering printed learning materials to households to reach those children who do not have access to the internet, television or radio. In the long run, the global education community needs to develop and implement comprehensive remote learning plans and modalities, including accessible digital and media content, to provide quality learning during pandemics and other crises. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have only begun to manifest and will persist long after social isolation has ended. Remote learning programmes, using various modalities, should be designed to meet the needs of all children and ensure that existing learning gaps are not further widened. Providing the world's disadvantaged and marginalized children with equitable access to learning opportunities is critical to creating a sustainable future and must be a priority for the global education sector. We can overcome the digital divide by accelerating access and finding the most innovative ways to provide online learning. And we can leverage this crisis to help bring about that change even more quickly. We must work together to seize the moment, so that education systems are stronger and more inclusive after this pandemic.
Can broadcast media foster equitable learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
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Can broadcast media foster equitable learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

This post is the second in a series of articles focused on helping children continue to learn at home during the COVID-19 global pandemic, emphasizing the need for multiple remote learning platforms to meet the needs of all students.   As discussed in the first post in this series on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures around the globe mean that remote learning is now the only option for more than 1.3 billion children across 177 countries. MICS6 data reveal that many of the world’s children do not have internet access at home, particularly among poorer households. In response, UNICEF, governments and partners are actively considering an array of solutions to support the continuity of learning for children and adolescents, and the data indicate that television and radio broadcasts offer an effective way for education systems to reach children with the greatest needs.     Access via the airwaves: Reaching the most children with television and radio [caption id="attachment_2516" align="alignright" width="303"] Figure 1[/caption] As illustrated in Figure 1, broadcast media can be a core component of a data-driven, multi-pronged approach to the alternative delivery of education content and has several advantages in delivering educational content during the COVID-19 crisis. New analysis of MICS6 data shows that television and radio broadcasts have the potential to reach a majority of the world’s children, especially the most vulnerable. [1] According to UNICEF’s COVID-19 education rapid response tracker, 77 per cent of countries include television in their national response to COVID-19 school closures and radio is part of the national response in more than half of the countries tracked. TV and radio lack interactivity, but parents and caregivers can address this shortcoming by engaging with their children to discuss broadcasted educational content, supplemented by printed materials. The importance of effective engagement and support from parents and caregivers was discussed in detail in this recent UNICEF blog post.     Television Our analysis shows that in the countries studied in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, television would reach 80 per cent or more of the school-aged population. In countries like Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyz Republic, Montenegro, and Tunisia, even children in poor households have high rates of access to television making it an equitable way to deliver educational content (Figure 2). However, in the countries analyzed in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, household access to television is neither common nor equitably distributed – television reaches half or fewer school-age children, and gaps in television access are very stark for the poorest children, where 10 per cent or fewer have a television at home.       Radio While its reach is not universally high, radio has an important role to play in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where it can potentially reach more than 50 per cent of school-age children in countries such as The Gambia, Suriname, Sierra Leone and Ghana (Figure 3).     Boosting the benefits of broadcast media through blended delivery The broad reach of television and radio broadcasts makes them a good choice to serve as the backbone of many remote learning programmes, but countries are encouraged to explore how they can enhance their educational offerings with high- and low-tech complements like internet-based instruction and the use of printed learning materials. For example, in April, Peru launched “Aprendo en casa” (I learn at home), which uses radio, TV and web-based platforms to provide instruction in math, Spanish, social sciences, art and physical education at the pre-primary, primary and secondary education levels. UNICEF is coordinating with UNESCO, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and Peru’s Ministry of Education to ensure the programme is equitable and inclusive in reaching indigenous, migrant and disabled children. At the other end of the spectrum, for many of the most marginalized school-age children – i.e., those in very rural settings and/or from very poor households – even radio and TV may be inaccessible, making delivery of printed education materials the only alternative. In March, UNICEF and other partners supported Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education in their launch of educational radio programmes covering the national curriculum. About half of the households in the country have a radio, andhomes in rural areas are more likely to have a radio than a television.[2] The radio broadcasts are complemented by home delivery of printed materials, which are crucial to reaching children without radio access.     MICS6 data drive informed decision-making The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in terms of delivering education services to children. Speed is of the essence – the education sector must move quickly to find solutions, especially for the poorest children. COVID-19 school closures threaten to rob vulnerable children of the opportunity to catch up with their more advantaged peers, further deepening inequalities. Remote learning means the home environment is even more important to a child’s ability to continue learning. Marginalized children are more likely to be in homes with fewer learning resources, have lower access to devices, and their caregivers may lack the time or knowledge needed to support learning and development. In some countries, television and/or radio have the potential to reach almost all children, including the poorest. In others, their reach is limited and uneven. While MICS6 data show there is no one-size-fits-all solution to reach all children, using data to drive decisions regarding the most effective channels will help ensure education is both widely accessible and equitably provided.     [1] The analysis included 19 countries/regions (a total of 20 surveys) conducted between 2017-2019: East Asia and Pacific: Kiribati, Lao PDR, Mongolia; Europe and Central Asia: Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Montenegro, Montenegro (Roma settlements). Eastern and Southern Africa: Lesotho, Madagascar, Zimbabwe. Latin America and the Caribbean: Suriname. Middle East and North Africa: Iraq, Tunisia. South Asia: Bangladesh, Pakistan (Punjab). West and Central Africa: DR Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Togo. [2] Source: DHS 2015.