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Remote Learning and Beyond

What the Experts Say: Coronavirus & Children
(Past event)

Event type: Webinar

Related research: Education

events18 June 2020time15:00 - 16:30 CEST


For months now, the great majority of the world’s schoolchildren – some 1.6 billion at the peak of the crisis – have been out of school, leaving parents, teachers and children themselves grappling with the realities of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Never has the gap been more glaring between the children who have access to technology and learning tools and those who do not. In 71 countries worldwide, less than half the population has access to the internet. In sub-Saharan Africa this ratio is less than one quarter. Despite this disparity, most countries are using remote learning solutions to deliver some form of education for students at home – online platforms, traditional media of radio and television, and even traditional printed leaflets.

Even before lockdowns, the world was already facing a learning crisis, with more than 50 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries unable to read by the age of 10 (defined as ‘learning poverty’). In low-income countries, the learning crisis is even more acute, with the learning poverty rate reaching 93 per cent.

As some schools in some countries begin to tentatively re-open – with restrictions and risks alike – the ‘elephant in the classroom’ looms large: how can schools become safer and better at addressing learning poverty in the COVID era?

On Thursday 18 June at 15:00 CET | 09:00 EST, UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti will present its fourth Leading Minds Online webcast series ‘What the Experts Say - Coronavirus and Children: Remote Learning and Beyond’. A panel of high-level experts will look at how the global pandemic and resulting school closures are worsening learning gaps, and deepening the learning crisis. A selection of audience questions will be asked and answered during the webcast, and a recording and summary available shortly afterward.



Henrietta H Fore Executive Director, UNICEF
Henrietta Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director in January 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a public service, private sector and non-profit leadership career spanning more than four decades.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner, Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
Mariya Gabriel was the Vice-President of the EPP Group in the European Parliament from 2014-2017. She was a Member of the European Parliament, EPP/GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) from 2009-2017. Since 2012, Mariya Gabriel has served as Vice-President of EPP Women. Prior to this she was Parliamentary Secretary to MEPs from the GERB political party within the EPP Group. 

Julia Gillard Board Chair, Global Partnership for Education
Julia Gillard joined the Global Partnership for Education as chair of the Board of Directors in 2014 and is former Prime Minister of Australia. Following her passion for education, she was later appointed a Commissioner at the International Commission for Global Education Opportunity and Patron at CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education.

Robert Jenkins Chief, Education and Associate Director, UNICEF 
Robert Jenkins brings over 20 years of experience in international development and humanitarian programming in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Prior to his current appointment, Mr. Jenkins served as the UNICEF Representative, Jordan, from 2014-2019, and Deputy Director, Division of Policy and Strategy in UNICEF Headquarters from 2009-2014.

David Moinina Sengeh  Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Government of Sierra Leone
As Minister David Sengeh leads efforts to provide opportunities for children and adults to acquire knowledge and skills, as well as, nurture good attitudes and values for economic growth. He also serves as Chief Innovation Officer for the nation’s Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Jaime Saavedra Chanduvi Global Director, Education, World Bank
Jaime Chanduvi rejoined the World Bank Group from the Government of Peru, where he served as Minister of Education from 2013 through 2016. Throughout his career, he has led groundbreaking work in the areas of poverty and inequality, employment and labor markets, the economics of education, and monitoring and evaluation systems.

Mathieu Brossard Chief, Education, UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti
Matt joined UNICEF in 2012 as Senior Advisor in the Education Section at UNICEF Headquarters where he was leading the Systems, Innovation, Data and Evidence for Results (SIDER) team. Prior to UNICEF, Matt served at the World Bank as Senior Education Economist and at UNESCO as Education Policy Analyst.



    Mathieu Brossard
    Chief of Education

    UNICEF Innocenti

    Henrietta H. Fore
    Executive Director, UNICEF
    Julia Gillard
    Board Chair, Global Partnership for Education
    David Moinina Sengeh
    Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Government of Sierra Leone
    Mariya Gabriel
    European Commissioner, Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
    Robert Jenkins
    Chief, Education and Associate Director, UNICEF
    Jaime Saavedra Chanduvi
    Global Director, Education, World Bank



    COVID-19 and Education for Children: Lessons Learned

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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.
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    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. 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South Asia: Bangladesh, Pakistan (Punjab). West and Central Africa: DR Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Togo. [2] Source: DHS 2015.