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Education

Education

The learning crisis is striking. 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple text by age 10. In poor countries, the “learning poverty” rate is as high as 80 percent. The UNICEF Office of Research (OoR) – Innocenti developed in 2019 a new vision for its education programme for addressing learning poverty, aligned with the 2019-2030 UNICEF Education Strategy ‘Every child learns’. The vision puts increased emphasis on research embedded within programmes and on the use of evidence at country level, through co-creation of the research from the onset with Governments, implementing partners, communities and other stakeholders.  OoR-education programme focuses on research of: i) education systems and policies and ii) local service delivery (in and outside the school); and iii) innovations using behavioral/scaling science & implementation research to build evidence to bridge the “know-do” gap between systems and local level implementation.

Time to Teach
Teachers attending lessons and spending quality time on task is a critical prerequisite to learning. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, teacher absenteeism ranges from 15 to 45 per cent. The Time to Teach study seeks to identify factors affecting various forms of teacher attendance and to use this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher policies in twenty African countries (the Comoros; Kenya; Mozambique; Rwanda, Puntland, State of Somalia; South Sudan; the United Republic of Tanzania; Uganda; Morocco; the Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Mauritania, Togo, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire; Gabon). The study draws from national, system-wide, qualitative data collections and school observations, and a quantitative survey of teachers.

Sport for Development

Sport for Development (S4D) programmes use sports to achieve development objectives such as education, health, empowerment and like skills. Collaborating with partners, including the Barça Foundation, this research aims to build the evidence base on the  practice and policy of S4D. Building on the findings of the Getting into the Game report, this mixed-methods study is now conducting case studies of programmes from different countries. By listening to the voices of various stakeholders from different countries it aims to develop guidelines on best practices, advocacy and communication, and monitoring and evaluation for organisations implementing S4D progamming for children.

Akelius - Digital language learning for refugees, migrants and linguistic minorities

This research programme investigates the co-creation, implementation, effectiveness of the Akelius digital language course.  The digital language course is co-created with teachers and students and used in a blended learning approach as a tool for teachers / facilitators, and as a self-learning tool. Fit for purpose monitoring and implementation research is built into to programme to facilitate improvements in the programme as it scales.  The programme is currently implemented for refugees and migrants in Greece, as part of the non-formal education programmes for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, and as a tool to improve language skills of marginalized children in Mauritania.

Data Must Speak (research component)

In spite of the learning crisis and even in the most difficult contexts, there are some “positive deviant” schools, that outperform (in terms of learning, gender and equity) other schools in similar contexts and with equivalent resources. Data Must Speak uses mixed-method research on school performance, including behavioral and scaling science and implementation research to identify “positive deviant” practices and behaviors at classroom, school, community and district levels and incentivize their application at scale in all schools, in partnership with Ministries of Education in 8 countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Madagascar, Niger, Togo, Zambia)

Let Us Learn – building evidence into education programmes for the most marginalized.

Let Us Learn (LUL) is an initiative that supports vulnerable children - especially girls - learning though a variety of education programmes in 5 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal. UNICEF Office of Research- Innocenti and the Education Section in UNICEF HQ are supporting LUL programmes by helping implementing partners to improve their M&E systems and building evidence through mixed methods research to understand programme effectiveness in their contribution to improved education outcomes, including learning.

The education team also provides research outside of these multi-year research programmes supporting UNICEF HQ, Regional offices and Country Offices in research on multiple topics including: Private Education in South Asia, Migration and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean and understanding equity in education spending using Benefit Incidence Analysis together with UNICEF’s Education and Social Policy sections in HQ.

 

COVID 19 & Children

Visit our COVID-19 & Children website for Research Agenda, Research Publications, Blogs, Think Pieces, Online Events, Good Reads and more

Short-term projects

Identifying good practices for equitable remote learning during COVID-19 school closures
Analysis of promising remote learning practices during school closures and effects on the most vulnerable children. Builds on data collected from country offices and other sources.

Parental engagement in children’s learning: Insights for remote learning response during COVID-19
Analysis of MICS 6 data on the potential of child-oriented books at home and the parental role for learning, especially where low access to technology.

Long-term project

Learning from COVID-19 on providing continued education for all in times of school closures
Investigating the impacts of COVID-19 school closures on education and other outcomes and what works to provide continued learning during crises. The research will draw on available data and ongoing Innocenti research.

 


Publications

The Impact of Community Violence on Educational Outcomes: A review of the literature
Publication Publication

The Impact of Community Violence on Educational Outcomes: A review of the literature

In recent decades, violence in and around schools has become a serious concern in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is not a new or isolated phenomenon, nor is it limited to certain schools or countries. While much of the literature connecting violence and schools has focused on bullying, it has overlooked how violence in other environments, in families and in communities, affects children’s education and their learning outcomes. Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 9 out of the 10 countries with the highest rates of violence in the world. Yet, the prevalence of bullying in schools is one of the lowest in comparison to other regions, suggesting that this is not the most concerning form of violence impacting children’s educational experiences. This literature review summarizes existing evidence on the impacts of community violence on academic achievement as well as on other educational outcomes – including dropping out, absenteeism, truancy, enrolment and attendance – and highlights policy and research implications.
Learning at a Distance: Children’s remote learning experiences in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic
Publication Publication

Learning at a Distance: Children’s remote learning experiences in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Italy was the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown. Children and their families lived in nearly complete isolation for almost two months. Students missed 65 days of school compared to an average of 27 missed days among high-income countries worldwide. This prolonged break is of concern, as even short breaks in schooling can cause significant loss of learning for children and lead to educational inequalities over time. At least 3 million Italian students may not have been reached by remote learning due to a lack of internet connectivity or devices at home. This report explores children’s and parents’ experiences of remote learning during the lockdown in Italy, drawing on data collected from 11 European countries (and coordinated by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center). It explores how children's access and use of digital technologies changed during the pandemic; highlights how existing inequalities might undermine remote learning opportunities, even among those with internet access; and provides insights on how to support children’s remote learning in the future. *** L'Italia e’ stata il primo paese in Europa ad aver applicato la misura del lockdown su tutto il territorio. I bambini e le loro famiglie hanno vissuto in quasi completo isolamento per circa due mesi. Gli studenti hanno perduto 65 giorni di scuola rispetto ad una media di 27 negli altri paesi ad alto reddito del mondo. Questa interruzione prolungata rappresenta motivo di preoccupazione, in quanto persino interruzioni piu’ brevi nella didattica possono causare significative perdite nel livello di istruzione dei ragazzi e portare col tempo a diseguaglianze educative. Almeno 3 milioni di studenti in Italia non sono stati coinvolti nella didattica a distanza a causa d una mancanza di connessione ad internet o di dispositivi adeguati a casa. Questo rapporto analizza l’esperienza della didattica a distanza di ragazzi e genitori in Italia durante il lockdown, sulla base dei dati raccolti in 11 paesi europei (e coordinati dal Centro comune di ricerca della Commissione Europea). Studia il cambiamento nell’accesso e nell’uso delle tecnologie digitali dei bambini e ragazzi durante la pandemia; mette in evidenza come le diseguaglianze esistenti possano diminuire le opportunità offerte dalla didattica a distanza, anche tra coloro che hanno accesso ad internet; e fornisce approfondimenti su come sostenere la didattica a distanza di bambini e ragazzi in futuro.
Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in primary schools Tanzania
Publication Publication

Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in primary schools Tanzania

Teacher absenteeism constitutes a significant barrier to achieving quality education in many low- and middle-income countries globally, where teachers’ school absence rates range from 3 per cent to 27 per cent. Tanzania Mainland has made significant progress in achieving universal primary education and improving the quality of education. Since 2002, access to primary education has expanded exponentially. Yet, quality of learning outcomes remains a challenge. One of the key factors for the provision of quality education is teacher attendance. While many reasons for teachers’ absenteeism appear to be valid, such as lack of reliable transport and bad climate conditions, other causes are hard to justify, such as when teachers fail to prepare for lessons. Time to Teach (TTT) targets this knowledge gap. Its primary objective is to identify factors affecting the various forms of primary school teacher attendance and to use this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher-related policies. Specifically, the study looks at four distinct forms of teacher attendance: being in school; being punctual; being in the classroom; and spending sufficient time on task while in the classroom.

News & Commentary

Can you measure the value of sport?
Article Article

Can you measure the value of sport?

(6 April 2018) Sport for Development (S4D) is an intervention which can potentially deliver positive impact on children’s well-being. However, with little coordination between S4D organisations and a lack of rigorous evidence proving its value, there is a vacuum of concrete information and lessons learned in the sector. UNICEF Innocenti has initiated a new research project looking to fill this gap by building an evidence base to support improved S4D programming and policy to increase the impact of sport beyond the playing field.Sport is a powerful communal experience, bridging boundaries of language, religion and culture; engaging billions of supporters and participants. Beyond physical well-being, UNICEF has long recognized that sport can have many additional beneficial effects for children. In fact, Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the right of every child to play and recreational activities in a safe and healthy environment.S4D is the use of sport as an instrument to positively impact social and personal development. Various S4D initiatives aim to achieve different objectives. Some initiatives aim to engage youth in sport to keep them away from harm, while others use sport to provide psycho-social support for children traumatized by war, disaster or exploitation. Still others use sport to engage youth and stimulate positive development of values, attitudes, and behavior. Harnessing the power of S4D has many benefits when designing practices and policies, not least its relatively low cost and easy incorporation into existing programmes at all levels. Visit UNICEF global S4D pageHowever, sport remains an untapped tool for making positive change for children on a larger scale. Currently, a myriad of organizations use S4D initiatives to achieve positive child outcomes. The closure of the United Nations Office of Sports for Development and Peace in 2016 left a vacuum in the sector and reduced coordination between key S4D actors. While there are over 550 registered organisations, there is a lack of rigorous evidence on their impact. Action surrounding S4D outpaces the evidence base to support it. Unlocking the potential of S4D – and the investment to support it – requires quality evidence.During a physical training session, a group of Yemeni child practice self-defence techniques at UNICEF safe space for youth at Markazi camp for Yemeni refugees. Djibouti.  UNICEF Innocenti’s new research project on S4D – supported by the Barça Foundation – aims to close this gap by building a reliable and consistent evidence base. Not only will this research help strengthen evidence on the impact of S4D initiatives, it will also facilitate cross-national learning, and may even help to reinvigorate sport as a development intervention. The research looks to understand how S4D initiatives can most effectively transform children’s lives and promote positive outcomes in four specific areas:EducationChild ProtectionParticipationSocial InclusionAdditionally, the research will identify both limitations and best practices in monitoring and evaluating S4D programmes and initiatives. The aim of this exploration is to identify the most effective initiatives, and the reasons for their success. This evidence base can help to harness the power of sport to transform the lives of children.Girls play football during afternoon activities at the Centre de Transit et d'Orientation, a UNICEF-supported reintegration centre for children associated with armed groups, in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo The universal appeal of sport provides an important advantage for S4D based efforts to motivate, inspire and mobilise communities. UNICEF Innocenti’s research aims to provide a more consistent definition of S4D for the many organisations who are already using sport to improve children’s lives, as well as evidence to help governments position sport as a viable development initiative. S4D can help ensure that even the most marginalized children in the world can reach their full potential.UNICEF Innocenti’s research on S4D is led by Dominic Richardson, Senior Education Specialist, and is supported by education expert, Juliana Zapata.   
Bullying: a global challenge requires a global measure
Article Article

Bullying: a global challenge requires a global measure

(12 July 2018) Bullying among children is a global challenge, with numerous detrimental side effects that have broader societal implications. Both victims and perpetrators of bullying suffer across various dimensions, including personal social development, education, and health, with negative effects persisting into adulthood. Bullying is also a serious concern for policymakers and child practitioners. High rates of bullying amongst children should raise warning flags regarding child rights’ failings. Moreover, due to its damaging effects on learning and behaviour, bullying in schools could reduce the effectiveness of public investment in children’s education and may incur costs through riskier behaviour in the future. These concerns have contributed to bullying becoming a globally recognised challenge. Yet, despite every region in the world monitoring children’s experiences of bullying, a validated global measure has not been produced. To fill this gap, UNICEF Innocenti’s Education Officer, Dominic Richardson, and Oxford University’s Chii Fen Hiu, have developed a global indicator on bullying by combining data from six international surveys on bullying prevalence amongst 11- to 15-year-olds in 145 countries.Patricia, 14, stands in a hallway at Professor Daniel Cordón Salguero Elementary School in El Salvador. The recently released working paper, Developing a Global Indicator on Bullying of School-Aged Children, documents the process of building and validating this global indicator of bullying. Secondly, the paper provides basic analyses on bullying rates and its links to macro-level determinants, including wealth, educational outcomes, and youth suicide rates. Finally, in the absence of a globally representative survey of children, the paper proposes a method of global indicator development that may be used to operationalise the Sustainable Development Goals.Important findings of the paper include:Experiencing some form of bullying at least once in a couple of months is most common amongst school children in poorer countries. By region, South Asia and West and Central Africa experience most bullying. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States experience the lowest rates of bullying. Neither girls nor boys are consistently more affected by bullying, but often boys and younger children experience more bullying. Bullying risk is not clearly linked with income inequality or educational expenditure, but high risk countries report lower per capita GDP and lower secondary school enrolment.Despite a loss in detail in scale, and much regional data being incomparable, it is possible to harmonise national-level data, to define and validate a measure of bullying risk for global comparison.Global National Map of Bullying by Relative RiskThe vast majority of the globe has usable data, and these have been shaded according to the risk of bullying from light grey (low) to black (high). Gaps in the data (white areas) are most notable in central and West Africa, South Asia, parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS, and islands in the Pacific.At a glance, the global map shows higher risk in the western hemisphere, and lowest risk in the eastern hemisphere. However, this picture serves best to highlight the variation in experiences within regions. Variation is also likely to exist within countries, and between socio-economic and socio-demographic groups, and which cannot be uncovered using this analysis. The findings of the paper show that bullying is a complex phenomenon that takes multiple forms, and is experienced to widely varying degrees across the world. Importantly, the paper acknowledges those children who may be missing from the surveys on which the indicator is based. School-based surveys are limited insofar as they are selective in terms of the children they include and the questions they ask, thus influencing results. In particular, cyber-bullying is not included in the indicator. This increasing concern is explored in Innocenti’s work on Child Rights in the Digital Age. Full details by country, including year of study, average age group, source of data, and raw estimates (including gender breakdowns) can be found in the annex of the paper.
How we work
Article Article

How we work

 Research is fundamental to UNICEF’s mission. The struggle to safeguard the rights of all children in all circumstances can only succeed when supported by the most reliable evidence and the latest knowledge.RESEARCH FOR CHILDRENThe Office of Research – Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. Its core mandate is to undertake cutting-edge, policy-relevant research that equips the organization and the wider global community to deliver results for children. To achieve its mandate UNICEF Innocenti must work closely with all parts of its parent organization as well as a wide array of external academic and research institutions. Innocenti’s research seeks to inform policy, guide action and also to challenge assumptions. The credibility and relevance of findings rest as much on the quality of inquiry as on independence. Innocenti’s position, firmly rooted in the global UNICEF network and fully engaged as an independent research body with leading universities and institutes in all regions of the world promotes a dynamic, real-time discourse on the generation of knowledge about children.As the research centre for UNICEF, Innocenti is uniquely positioned to understand and respond to research questions on the ground, and to feed research into policy and practice – through its programmes of cooperation with more 150 low and middle income countries, its links to UNICEF National Committees in 33 high income countries, and as an arm of the world’s leading normative agency that shapes global policies and outcomes for children. RESEARCH GOVERNANCE IN UNICEFUNICEF Innocenti also supports and facilitates research conducted by other parts of its parent organization. It is responsible for developing appropriate guidelines, establishing standards of research ethics and quality, facilitating the wider organization’s research agenda, providing technical assistance and promoting best practice. WHY FLORENCE? OUR HISTORYUNICEF enjoys the unique privilege of locating its global research function at the nearly 600-year-old Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, Italy. Established as a foundling shelter in 1419 by the influential Silk-workers Guild, Innocenti can be viewed as one of the earliest efforts by secular authorities to elevate the concerns of vulnerable children to the level of civic priority. UNICEF’s presence at Innocenti was inaugurated in 1988 by then Executive Director James Grant, with a broad mandate to contribute to an “emerging global ethic for children.” Research quickly became a defining mission with provision of crucial early research support for an expanding mandate in child rights, urban programmes, social policy and protection of children, among others. OUR PROGRAMMEToday UNICEF Innocenti maintains a small team of about 40 researchers, evaluators, knowledge management specialists, communicators, operations and support staff at its centre in Florence. UNICEF Innocenti develops its research agenda in consultation with other parts of UNICEF and with external stakeholders.The agenda is selected to support intensified research efforts coordinated across the wider organization where there is demand for a concerted effort to build evidence, usually in a rapidly expanding intervention area. Priorities are also driven by critical issues facing children which have been either overlooked or which do not fit neatly into discreet sectors. Current research projects:Child poverty, equity and well-being: multi-dimensional deprivation analysis, and the flagship Innocenti Report Card on child well-being in rich countriesSocial protection: the impact of cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan AfricaChild protection: work on the drivers of violence against children, and family and parenting support Children and the internet: investigating child rights in the digital ageAdolescent well-being: analysis of the structural and social determinants of adolescent well-being across sectors and throughout the life-course Education: school settings, learning pathways and life skills Emerging areas of focus include: migration, gender, and the intersection of humanitarian and development work. We also host a global network of longitudinal studies (GLORI). CONVENING AND ENGAGING Using the Florence location and the convening power of UNICEF, the office hosts a range of high level events, expert working groups, senior research fellows, workshops and seminars. Events bring together UNICEF staff, academics, policy makers and practitioners. UNICEF Innocenti works through partnerships with academic and policy research institutions as well as think-tanks and NGOs. Strategic communications and research engagement activities ensure that Innocenti research is widely disseminated and translates into practical impacts and policy influence.

Events

Education Reforms in Global Context: Policy & Practice
Event Event

Education Reforms in Global Context: Policy & Practice

Leaders and experts from across the globe will discuss the efforts of international organizations, research institutes and governments to ensure the provision of quality education for all children. COVID-19 has added another layer of challenges vis-a-vis equity, learning and governance. How are governments responding to the COVID-19 educational disruption? What role are international organizations playing in this regard? Is Edtech an effective solution? What kind of research is being conducted to help the decision makers? Are policy makers and development practitioners using evidence to inform policy and practice? What are the key challenges facing education today, and how can different stakeholders join hands to resolve them effectively? We will be discussing all this and more with our panel of high-level experts.
What have we learnt? Overview of findings from a survey of ministries of education on national responses to COVID-19
Event Event

What have we learnt? Overview of findings from a survey of ministries of education on national responses to COVID-19

As part of the coordinated global education response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank have conducted a survey on National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures. In this webinar the results from this data collection will be showcased, sharing the lessons learnt from government responses to school closures from pre-primary to secondary education.
Remote Learning and Beyond
Event Event

Remote Learning and Beyond

On Thursday 18 June at 15:00 CET | 09:00 EST UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti launches the fourth installment of the Leading Minds Online webinar series ‘What the Experts Say - Coronavirus and Children: Remote Learning and Beyond.

Project team

Mathieu Brossard

UNICEF Innocenti

Spogmai Akseer

UNICEF Innocenti

Carolina Alban Conto

UNICEF Innocenti

Amparo Barrera

UNICEF Innocenti

Artur Borkowski

UNICEF Innocenti

Renaud Comba

UNICEF Innocenti

Matej Damborsky

UNICEF Innocenti

Thomas Dreesen

UNICEF Innocenti

Lorena Levano Gavidia

UNICEF Innocenti

Ximena Jativa

UNICEF Innocenti

Akito Kamei

UNICEF Innocenti

Despina Karamperidou

UNICEF Innocenti

Dita Nugroho

UNICEF Innocenti

Javier Santiago Ortiz Correa

UNICEF Innocenti

Chiara Pasquini

UNICEF Innocenti

Luca Maria Pesando

UNICEF Innocenti

Rafael Pontuschka

UNICEF Innocenti

Lara Stefanizzi

UNICEF Innocenti

Marco Valenza

UNICEF Innocenti

Partners

Videos

Topics

Education

Campaigns

Getting into the Game

Blogs

Learning from highly effective schools in Lao PDR

Can we count on parents to help their children learn at home?

How prepared are global education systems for future crises?

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

How sport can help keep children engaged during COVID-19: Innovations by South African S4D organizations

Safeguarding and sport for development during and after the pandemic

Bright Beginnings: Community-Based Early Childhood Education in Rural Bangladesh

Promising Futures: Vocational training programme in rural Bangladesh

Educating the hardest to reach: Lessons from non-formal education in Nepal

COVID-19 and education: The digital gender divide among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa

Lessons from COVID-19: Getting remote learning right 

How involved are parents in their children’s learning? MICS6 data reveal critical insights

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

Remote Learning Amid a Global Pandemic: Insights from MICS6

Getting the "development" right in Sport for Development

Improving education systems from beyond school walls

Podcasts

COVID-19 and Education for Children: Lessons Learned

A Conversation with our Education Team

Nobel laureate Prof. James Heckman talks about ECD

Journal articles

Comparing inequality in adolescents’ reading achievement across 37 countries and over time: outcomes versus opportunities

Early school failure predicts teenage pregnancy and marriage: A large population-based cohort study in northern Malawi

Failing to progress or progressing to fail? Age-for-grade heterogeneity and grade repetition in primary schools in Karonga district, northern Malawi

A Longitudinal Analysis of Well-Being of Ghanaian Children in Transnational Families

Transnational migration, gender and educational development of children in Tajikistan

Reports

What Have We Learnt? Findings from a survey of ministries of education on national responses to COVID-19