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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.

Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest Issue 4: Marginalized girls’ learning and COVID-19
Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest Issue 4: Marginalized girls’ learning and COVID-19
Published: 2022 Innocenti Digest

Progress towards SDG 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – was already in jeopardy before COVID-19. The world was facing a learning crisis, with 48% of children unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10.

For the most marginalized children, the learning crisis was even more severe. In low-income countries, 94% of girls (and 93% of boys) were not able to read by the age of 10, compared with 7% of girls (and 8% of boys) in high-income countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing disparities to the detriment of the girls and boys who were already being left behind.

This digest spotlights 13 research papers, and summarizes lessons and evidence of the impacts of COVID-19 on marginalized girls’ learning, drawing from UNICEF Innocenti’s Children and COVID-19 Research Library launched in 2020.

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.

 

Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing Across the Life Course: Towards an Integrated Conceptual Framework for Research and Evidence Generation
Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing Across the Life Course: Towards an Integrated Conceptual Framework for Research and Evidence Generation

AUTHOR(S)
Priscilla Idele; Manasi Sharma; Camila Perera Aladro; Prerna Banati; David Anthony

Published: 2022 Innocenti Working Papers

Mental health conditions affect about 1 in 7 adolescents globally. In the context of COVID-19, the importance of mental health and psychosocial support for all has been undoubtedly confirmed. Despite the increased attention to mental health issues, there is a dearth of evidence on what determines child and adolescent mental health, who is most at risk, and what works to foster mental health across contexts, cultures and distinct population groups.

This conceptual framework aims to inform research on child and adolescent mental health. It incorporates children’s developmental stages and the dynamic environment in which they live and grow. Informed by a review of existing theoretical frameworks on mental health and child development, this framework integrates elements of the socio-ecological model; the life course approach; the social determinants of health approach; and Innocenti Report Card’s Worlds of Influence Framework. Combining diverse aspects of these frameworks and approaches, we propose an integrated model to guide UNICEF’s research in this area. 

Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest Issue 3: Children with Disabilities
Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest Issue 3: Children with Disabilities
Published: 2022 Innocenti Digest

Research and data on children with disabilities around the globe remains critical as these children continue to be left behind. This is despite near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the extensive ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Evidence is growing that the COVID-19 pandemic, through both the virus itself and the measures implemented by governments to contain its spread, have disproportionately impacted children with disabilities and their families.

This digest focuses on the emerging evidence of the impacts of COVID-19 on children with disabilities, drawing from UNICEF Innocenti’s Children and COVID-19 Research Library, launched in 2020.

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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. 

Best of UNICEF Research 2021
Best of UNICEF Research 2021
Published: 2021 Miscellanea

Best of UNICEF Research showcases the most rigorous, innovative and impactful research produced by UNICEF offices worldwide. While evidence highlights emerging issues, it also informs decisions and provides policy and programme  recommendations for governments and partners to improve children’s lives. 

This ninth edition brings together 11 powerful studies from around the world and across the five Strategic Goal Areas. How do South Asian youth feel about entering the world of work? What is the effect of climate-related hazards on access to health care? How has COVID-19 affected children and their families in the Republic of Moldova? With social and economic inequalities increasing and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals lagging, rigorous research – answers to these questions – has never mattered more.

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JOURNAL ARTICLES BLOGS
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.
Increasing Women’s Representation in School Leadership: A promising path towards improving learning
Publication

Increasing Women’s Representation in School Leadership: A promising path towards improving learning

Emerging evidence shows a positive association between women school leaders and student performance. Some studies suggest women school leaders are more likely than their male counterparts to adopt effective management practices that may contribute to improved outcomes. However, women remain largely underrepresented in school leadership positions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This brief presents emerging insights on the association between women school leaders and education outcomes and draws attention to women’s underrepresentation in school leadership roles. It highlights the need for further research on gender and school leadership to identify policies and practices that can be implemented to increase women’s representation and scale high-quality management practices adopted by women leaders to more schools to improve education outcomes for all children.
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.
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.

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