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Thomas Dreesen

Education Manager

Thomas is an Education Manager at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, with specific focus on implementation research in the Innovation in Education, Let Us Learn, and Sports for Development research 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

Unlocking Learning: The implementation and effectiveness of digital learning for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Publication Publication

Unlocking Learning: The implementation and effectiveness of digital learning for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Digital learning has the potential to offer interactive and personalized learning for children, in and out of school, including the most marginalized. However, depending on programme design, delivery, and use, digital learning can also exacerbate learning inequalities. This report presents tangible findings on the implementation and use of digital learning to improve outcomes for marginalized children in Lebanon. This report focuses on the UNICEF-Akelius Foundation Partnership and its implementation of a digital course used on tablets and mobile phones for language learning of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The report provides findings across three areas: First, the report investigates the digital course’s use in a blended learning environment where it was used on tablets by students as part of traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with teachers. Second, the analysis examines the transition to remote learning where the course was used on devices owned by the household, supported by teachers remotely. Third, the report estimates the effectiveness of the use of the digital course during this period of remote learning from August–November 2020 showing positive results for language and art competencies.
Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning During COVID-19 – East Asia and the Pacific
Publication Publication

Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning During COVID-19 – East Asia and the Pacific

COVID-19 school closures in East Asia and the Pacific threaten to widen existing learning inequities and increase the number of children out of school. During the pandemic, governments rapidly deployed remote learning strategies, ranging from paper-based take-home materials to digital platforms. However, lack of electricity – critical to connectivity – remains a key obstacle for the region, particularly in rural areas. Therefore, while digital learning platforms were offered by most Southeast Asian countries, take-up was low. A combination of modalities – including mobile phone-based learning strategies – and collaboration with a range of non-governmental education stakeholders have the potential to enhance the reach of remote learning and to make it more engaging for students. Lessons from the regional implementation of these strategies emphasize the importance of research to understand the needs of students, educators and parents and the impact of remote learning, especially in low-resource contexts.
Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning During COVID-19 – Latin America and the Caribbean
Publication Publication

Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning During COVID-19 – Latin America and the Caribbean

The implementation of remote learning in Latin America and the Caribbean during the COVID-19 school closures confirmed that the divide in access to electricity and technology remained a major hurdle for governments across the region to serve all children. School closures risk widening existing learning gaps as private schools were more prepared to use technology for remote learning and children from wealthier households received more support at home while schools were closed. As countries in the region reopen their schools, it is vital that governments incorporate key lessons learned to improve the resilience and equity of the education systems. This report presents evidence on remote learning during the COVID-19 school closures in Latin America and the Caribbean to help guide decision-makers to build more effective, sustainable and resilient education systems for current and future crises.
Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning During COVID-19 – South Asia
Publication Publication

Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning During COVID-19 – South Asia

COVID-19 school closures in South Asia lasted longer than in any other region. To mitigate subsequent effects, governments and education actors in South Asia provided a range of remote learning modalities. This report presents evidence on the reach and effectiveness of these remote learning strategies through a meta-analysis of studies from the region. Large differences in students’ access to connectivity and devices show that high-tech remote learning modalities did not reach all students. Lessons learned indicate that the effectiveness of one-way or low-tech modalities can be enhanced through increased engagement and support from educators. Teachers, parents and caregivers must be supported to help children learn remotely, especially in cases where they must rely on these low-tech remote learning modalities. Formative assessments are needed to understand the scale of lost learning and target responses to remediate this learning loss when schools reopen.  

Blogs

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

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

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

23 July 2021 - Lessons on the implementation and contextualization of Smart Buys evidence at country level by the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP).

Podcasts

COVID-19 and Education for Children: Lessons Learned
Podcast Podcast

COVID-19 and Education for Children: Lessons Learned