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UNICEF Innocenti's complete catalogue of research and reports
Places and Spaces: Environments and children’s well-being
SPOTLIGHT

Places and Spaces: Environments and children’s well-being

Report Card 17 explores how 43 OECD/EU countries are faring in providing healthy environments for children. Do children have clean water to drink? Do they have good-quality air to breathe? Are their homes free of lead and mould? How many children live in overcrowded homes? How many have access to green play spaces, safe from road traffic? Data show that a nation’s wealth does not guarantee a healthy environment. Far too many children are deprived of a healthy home, irreversibly damaging their current and future well-being. Beyond children’s immediate environments, over-consumption in some of the world’s richest countries is destroying children’s environments globally. This threatens both children worldwide and future generations. To provide all children with safe and healthy environments, governments, policymakers, businesses and all stakeholders are called to act on a set of policy recommendations.
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Let Us Learn: Making education work for the most vulnerable in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal
Let Us Learn: Making education work for the most vulnerable in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal
Published: 2022 Innocenti Research Report

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
Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from remote learning during COVID-19 – Eastern and Southern Africa
Published: 2022 Innocenti Research Report

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
Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from Remote Learning during COVID-19: Europe and Central Asia
Published: 2022 Innocenti Research Report

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.

Shortfalls in Social Spending in Low- and Middle-income Countries: COVID-19 and Shrinking Finance for Social Spending
Shortfalls in Social Spending in Low- and Middle-income Countries: COVID-19 and Shrinking Finance for Social Spending
Published: 2022 Innocenti Research Report

Financing quality social services will require increased public investment and greater mobilization of both domestic and international resources in the post-COVID era. Currently, low- and middle-income countries invest, on average, just one third of their total government expenditure in social spending on education, health and social protection. However, the fiscal space to enhance social spending remains constrained in many parts of the world. Given the scale of the challenge facing many countries, a renewed focus on financing social spending is needed to address widening inequalities.

This policy brief is the second in a series that assesses key issues affecting social spending as part of UNICEF’s work on Public Finance for Children. The brief examines how recent trends are impacting on the financing available for, and directed to, social spending in low- and middle-income countries in different regions, using secondary analysis of public expenditure data collected by international organizations. It calculates median spending figures by region and income group, using World Bank regional aggregates for domestic spending.

 

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

AUTHOR(S)
Youngkwang Jeon; Akihiro Fushimi; Dominic Koeppl; Thomas Dreesen

Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

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

AUTHOR(S)
Radhika Nagesh; Frank van Cappelle; Vidur Chopra; Thomas Dreesen

Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

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.   

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

AUTHOR(S)
Javier Santiago Ortiz Correa; Marco Valenza; Vincenzo Placco; Thomas Dreesen

Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

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.

Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in secondary schools in Rwanda
Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in secondary schools in Rwanda

AUTHOR(S)
Spogmai Akseer; Ximena Jativa

Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

In Rwanda, over 3.5 million children were estimated to be out of school in 2020 when the country closed all schools as a safety measure against the spread of COVID-19. The government quickly developed a national response plan and started the process of hiring teachers, constructing classrooms and training in-service teachers in remote-learning pedagogies. Prior to the lockdown, schools were already experiencing challenges, including low attendance rates. In the post-COVID-19 environment, learning losses are expected to be significant, especially on the acquisition of foundational skills, and will hinder the ministry's efforts to achieve the learning outcomes of its new competence-based curriculum. 

A Time to Teach study in 2020 in Rwanda found that low teacher attendance was a common problem in primary schools. This study seeks to support the Ministry of Education by providing a comprehensive understanding of secondary school teacher attendance in the country. It builds on findings from the primary schools' study, to understand how attendance challenges may be similar or different across education levels, and more importantly, how these can help inform teacher policy design and implementation. 

Life in Lockdown: Child and adolescent mental health and well-being in the time of COVID-19
Life in Lockdown: Child and adolescent mental health and well-being in the time of COVID-19
Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

COVID-19 lockdowns have significantly disrupted the daily lives of children and adolescents, with increased time at home, online learning and limited physical social interaction. This report seeks to understand the immediate effects on their mental health. Covering more than 130,000 children and adolescents across 22 countries, the evidence shows increased stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as increased alcohol and substance use, and  externalizing behavioural problems.

Children and adolescents also reported positive coping strategies, resilience, social connectedness through digital media, more family time, and relief from academic stress. Factors such as demographics, relationships and pre-existing conditions are critical.

 To ensure children and adolescents are supported, the report recommends building the evidence on the longer-term impact of the pandemic on child and adolescent mental health in low- and middle-income countries, including vulnerable populations.

Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from remote learning during COVID-19
Reopening with Resilience: Lessons from remote learning during COVID-19
Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures around the world, affecting almost 1.6 billion students. The effects of even short disruptions in a child’s schooling on their learning and well-being have been shown to be acute and long lasting. The capacities of education systems to respond to the crisis by delivering remote learning and support to children and families have been diverse yet uneven.

This report reviews the emerging evidence on remote learning throughout the global school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic to help guide decision-makers to build more effective, sustainable, and resilient education systems for current and future crises.

It’s Not Too Late to Act on Early Learning: Understanding and recovering from the impact of pre-primary education closures during COVID-19
It’s Not Too Late to Act on Early Learning: Understanding and recovering from the impact of pre-primary education closures during COVID-19

AUTHOR(S)
Dita Nugroho; Youngkwang Jeon; Akito Kamei; Florencia Lopez Boo

Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Briefs

This paper presents a new estimate that pre-primary school closures in 2020 may cost today’s young children US$1.6 trillion in lost earnings over their lifetimes. Children in middle-income countries will be most greatly affected. However, most low- and middle- income countries are leaving pre-primary education out of their responses to COVID-19. This paper also draws lessons from evaluations of accelerated, bridging and remedial programmes on how introducing or expanding these transition programmes in the early years can mitigate the long-term impact on learning from pre-primary school closures.

COVID-19 and the Looming Debt Crisis: Protecting and Transforming Social Spending for Inclusive Recoveries
COVID-19 and the Looming Debt Crisis: Protecting and Transforming Social Spending for Inclusive Recoveries
Published: 2021 Innocenti Research Report

Compounding the COVID-19 pandemic is a looming debt crisis for low- and middle-income countries where a growing debt burden threatens to crowd out social spending for children.

This policy brief explores whether the current support from the international community is enough to maintain spending on basic services during COVID-19. It highlights countries that are most at risk due to high levels of poverty, as well as those less likely to benefit from the G20 Debt Standstill (DSSI). It concludes that a new international debt restructuring architecture, which encompasses the needs of poorer countries, is crucial to protecting children’s rights in the wake of COVID-19. 

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Return on Knowledge: How international development agencies are collaborating to deliver impact through knowledge, learning, research and evidence
Publication

Return on Knowledge: How international development agencies are collaborating to deliver impact through knowledge, learning, research and evidence

Effective collaboration around knowledge management and organizational learning is a key contributor to improving the impact of international development work for the world’s most vulnerable people. But how can it be proven? With only 10 years from the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals, nine of the world’s most influential agencies set out to show to the connection between the use of evidence, knowledge and learning and a better quality of human life. This book – a synthesis of stories, examples and insights that demonstrate where and how these practices have made a positive impact on development programming – is the result of the Multi-Donor Learning Partnership (MDLP), a collective effort to record the ways each of these organizations have leveraged intentional, systematic and resourced approaches to knowledge management and organizational learning in their work.
Gender Solutions: Capturing the impact of UNICEF’s gender equality evidence investments (2014–2021)
Publication

Gender Solutions: Capturing the impact of UNICEF’s gender equality evidence investments (2014–2021)

UNICEF has undertaken hundreds of gender evidence generation activities, supporting programmatic action, advocacy work and policymaking. The Gender Solutions project aims to draw together the knowledge, innovations and impacts of gender evidence work conducted by UNICEF offices since the first UNICEF Gender Action Plan was launched in 2014. A desk review identified over 700 gender-related UNICEF research, evaluation and data evidence generation activities since 2014. Twenty-five outputs were shortlisted because of their high quality and (potential for) impact and three were selected as Gender Evidence Award winners by an external review panel. By capturing the impact of this broad body of work, Gender Solutions aims to showcase UNICEF’s evidence investments, reward excellence and inform the rollout of the UNICEF Gender Policy 2021–2030 and Action Plan 2022–2025.
Annual Report 2021
Publication

Annual Report 2021

The UNICEF Innocenti Annual Report 2021 highlights the key results achieved in research and evidence to inform policymaking and programming.
Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children: Digital technology, play and child well-being
Publication

Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children: Digital technology, play and child well-being

Digital experiences can have significant negative impact on children, exposing them to risks or failing to nurture them adequately. Nevertheless, digital experiences also potentially yield enormous benefits for children, enabling them to learn, to create, to develop friendships, and to build worlds. While global efforts to deepen our understanding of the prevalence and impact of digital risks of harm are burgeoning – a development that is both welcome and necessary – less attention has been paid to understanding and optimizing the benefits that digital technology can provide in supporting children’s rights and their well-being. Benefits here refer not only to the absence of harm, but also to creating additional positive value. How should we recognize the opportunities and benefits of digital technology for children’s well-being? What is the relationship between the design of digital experiences – in particular, play-centred design – and the well-being of children? What guidance and measures can we use to strengthen the design of digital environments to promote positive outcomes for children? And how can we make sure that children’s insights and needs form the foundation of our work in this space? These questions matter for all those who design and promote digital experiences, to keep children safe and happy, and enable positive development and learning. These questions are particularly relevant as the world shifts its attention to emerging digital technologies and experiences, from artificial intelligence (AI) to the metaverse, and seeks to understand their impact on people and society. To begin to tackle these questions, UNICEF and the LEGO Group initiated the Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (RITEC) project in partnership with the Young and Resilient Research Centre at Western Sydney University; the CREATE Lab at New York University; the Graduate Center, City University of New York; the University of Sheffield; the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child; and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. The research is funded by the LEGO Foundation. The partnership is an international, multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral collaboration between organizations that believe the design and development of digital technology should support the rights and well-being of children as a primary objective – and that children should have a prominent voice in making this a reality. This project’s primary objective is to develop, with children from around the world, a framework that maps how the design of children’s digital experiences affects their well-being, and to provide guidance as to how informed design choices can promote positive well-being outcomes.

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