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Thomas Dreesen

Education Research Manager

Thomas Dreesen is an Education Manager at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, where he leads research on innovations in education, with a focus on embedding action research into large scale digital learning programmes. Prior to his current role, he worked on the education team at UNICEF Headquarters where he supported multiple country offices and implementing partners to improve M&E systems and develop evidence to inform education programmes. Before UNICEF, Thomas worked in India as a Research Manager for Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at the Harvard Kennedy School and as Senior Research Associate for the Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia. Thomas was also previously a visiting researcher at the Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Thomas holds an M.S. in International and Development Economics from the University of San Francisco, and a B.A. in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University.

Publications

Let Us Learn: Making education work for the most vulnerable in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal
Publication

Let Us Learn: Making education work for the most vulnerable in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal

Learning remains largely out of reach for many of the most vulnerable children around the world. In low- and middle-income countries, an estimated 56% of children cannot read a simple text by the age of 10. This share is projected to rise to 70% after the pandemic. The school closures imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with an enduring tendency in low-income countries to allocate a limited share of the national education budget to the most vulnerable, are further widening inequalities in the global learning crisis landscape. The Let Us Learn (LUL) initiative implements innovative education programmes to improve learning for the most vulnerable children in five countries with high levels of out-of-school children: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal. This report documents the outcomes, lessons learned and recommendations based on the experience of the initiative across four types of learning programmes spanning the education lifecycle: (1) pre-primary education; (2) accelerated learning pathways; (3) programmes to reduce barriers to access and stay in formal school; and (4) vocational training.
Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from remote learning during COVID-19 – Eastern and Southern Africa
Publication

Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from remote learning during COVID-19 – Eastern and Southern Africa

The widespread school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the learning crisis for children living in Eastern and Southern Africa. The crisis has also shown the great need to develop resilient education systems that can provide learning when schools are forced to close. Understanding how to provide remote learning equitably utilizing multiple modalities and emphasizing low-tech solutions in Eastern and Southern Africa is critical given the great challenges facing the region in terms of electricity and connectivity access. This report provides a summary of lessons learned in the East and Southern Africa region from remote learning during COVID-19 and provides concrete recommendations on how to increase the resilience of education systems.
Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning during COVID-19: Europe and Central Asia
Publication

Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning during COVID-19: Europe and Central Asia

When schools started closing their doors due to COVID-19, countries in Europe and Central Asia quickly provided alternative learning solutions for children to continue learning. More than 90 per cent of countries offered digital solutions to ensure that education activities could continue. However, lack of access to digital devices and a reliable internet connection excluded a significant amount of already marginalized children and threatened to widen the existing learning disparities. This report builds on existing evidence highlighting key lessons learned during the pandemic to promote learning for all during school closure and provides actionable policy recommendations on how to bridge the digital divide and build resilient education systems in Europe and Central Asia.
Where are we on Education Recovery? Taking the Global Pulse of a RAPID Response
Publication

Where are we on Education Recovery? Taking the Global Pulse of a RAPID Response

Two years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, education has been seriously disrupted. In response to this crisis, the global priority remains to ensure every child is supported so they can return to school and catch up on lost learning. Recognizing the need to accelerate education recovery with urgent, at-scale action, this joint report by UNICEF in partnership with UNESCO and the World Bank highlights staggering levels of learning loss globally and takes stock of the measures being taken by countries to mitigate learning losses as schools reopen. Based on a survey of 122 UNICEF country and fundraising offices administered in early March 2022, the report presents the importance of and progress made in five key actions for education recovery, the RAPID: Reach every child and retain them in school; Assess learning levels; Prioritize teaching the fundamentals; Increase catch-up learning and progress beyond what was lost; and Develop psychosocial health and well-being so every child is ready to learn.

Blogs

How are sport for development organizations keeping children healthy during COVID-19?
Blog

How are sport for development organizations keeping children healthy during COVID-19?

This blog explores how Sport for Development (S4D) organisations have responded and adapted their programming to support children during the COVID-19 crisis. S4D organisations use sport as a tool to catalyse positive change in the lives of children, youth and the communities they live in. Interviews with S4D organizations, conducted as part of the ongoing research commissioned by the Barça Foundation and UNICEF partnership, revealed that organizations are innovating to adapt to the current crisis through three key interconnected practices:
Lessons from COVID-19: Getting remote learning right 
Blog

Lessons from COVID-19: Getting remote learning right 

The massive scale of school closures has laid bare the uneven distribution of technology to facilitate remote learning and the lack of preparedness of systems to support teachers, and caregivers in the successful and safe use of technology for learning.
Can broadcast media foster equitable learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Blog

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.

Journal articles

Can broadcast media foster equitable learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Journal Article

Potential effects of COVID-19 school closures on foundational skills and Country responses for mitigating learning loss

Events

How to apply Smart Buy's evidence in country education investment decisions
Event

How to apply Smart Buy's evidence in country education investment decisions

Lessons on the implementation and contextualization of Smart Buys evidence at country level by the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP).

Podcasts

How to apply Smart Buy's evidence in country education investment decisions
Podcast

COVID-19 and Education for Children: Lessons Learned