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Education

Research on Education and Development
Education

A global learning crisis is undermining children’s education and their futures. Pre-COVID, more than half of children in low- and middle-income countries could not read and understand a simple text by age 10. In poor countries, this “learning poverty” rate was as high as 80 percent. Due to COVID-19, an additional 10 percent of children globally will fall into learning poverty.

UNICEF Innocenti’s education research looks to address the learning crisis to ensure that every child learns. By co-creating the research with Governments, implementing partners, and communities, evidence is embedded within programmes for maximizing its use. Innocenti’s education research focuses on three areas: i) what works at school level (service delivery); ii) what works at policy level (system strengthening); and iii) how to scale up what works and address the “know-do” gaps between policies and their implementation (scaling and implementation science).

COVID-19 and education 

COVID-19 school closures have laid bare how unprepared education systems are to deal with crises and has uncovered the uneven distribution of the technology needed for remote learning. We are investigating impacts of school closures on children and how to design and deliver effective remote learning for more resilient education systems. To deliver high quality rapid and useful research on COVID-19 and education, this research agenda is done close collaboration with the education section and Data and Analytics team in UNICEF, regional offices, and partners such as the World Bank, UNESCO and WFP. 

Data Must Speak

Despite the global learning crisis, even in the most difficult contexts, there are some  “positive deviant” schools that outperform others in terms of learning, gender equality, and retention. Since 2019, in line with UNICEF's Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Programme, Data Must Speak (DMS) identifies these positive deviant schools, explores which practices make them outperform others, and investigates how these could be implemented in lower performing schools in similar contexts. DMS uses a participatory, mixed-methods approach to improve uptake, replicability, and sustainability. The research is being undertaken in ten countries across two continents.

Digital Learning 

UNICEF Innocenti’s digital learning research investigates the development, implementation, and effectiveness of digital learning across various connectivity settings (no/low/high), types of learning (blended/remote), populations, and education goals. Monitoring and implementation research is built into large scale digital learning programmes, such as Learning Passport and the UNICEF-Akelius Foundation partnership. Research is currently being carried out in: Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Lebanon, Mauritania, Serbia, Timor Leste. By embedding rapid mixed methods research into these programmes, this research provides timely evidence to improve digital learning solutions for all children. We not only examine what works, but also how it works in order to develop the key steps to achieve effective and inclusive digital learning.  

Let Us Learn

Let Us Learn (LUL) uses innovation in education delivery to improve learning for vulnerable children in five countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal. LUL programmes support children across the education lifecycle: from early childhood education; to primary and secondary school, and finally through to vocational training. Programmes are targeted to the most marginalized, such as children who are out of school or at high risk of dropping out. Mixed methods research builds evidence on how these programmes work and are effective in improving the outcomes of vulnerable children.

Sport for Development 

Sport for Development (S4D) uses sports to achieve crucial outcomes for children and youth, such as learning, health, empowerment and protection. Collaborating with partners, including the Barça Foundation, this research aims to expand the evidence base on S4D. Building on the findings of the Getting into the Game report, the second phase of this mixed-methods study includes in-depth, exploratory case studies of S4D organizations and programmes  across the globe. By harnessing the experiences of stakeholders from different countries, it identifies best practices and aims to develop a clear set of guidelines on designing, implementing, and ensuring the sustainability and scale-up of effective S4D programmes for children and youth. 

Time to Teach

Teachers attending lessons and spending sufficient time on task is a critical prerequisite for learning in school. Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa, teacher absenteeism is as high as 45 per cent. Time to Teach identifies factors affecting teacher attendance and uses this evidence to inform the design and implementation of teacher policies in twenty African countries. Drawing from both quantitative and qualitative data on a range of topics—from motivation to retention—this research aims to identify solutions for sustainable change. 

Publications

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

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

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.
Ready to Start School, Learn and Work: Evidence from three education programmes for out-of-school children and adolescents in Bangladesh
Publication Publication

Ready to Start School, Learn and Work: Evidence from three education programmes for out-of-school children and adolescents in Bangladesh

Children in the Sylhet division, in the Northeast of Bangladesh, face complex challenges in accessing quality education, at all school levels. The region ranks among the poorest performers in learning attainment across education levels. UNICEF Bangladesh and its partners have leveraged resources from the Let Us Learn (LUL) initiative to deliver three alternative learning pathways for out-of-school children and adolescents in remote areas of Sylhet. The three pathways cover key transition points in a child’s education: Getting ready to start school (Pre-Primary Education programme), learning foundational skills (A​bility-B​ased Accelerated Learning programme) and entering the job market (Alternative Learning Pathway programme). This report presents evidence on the achievements of the three programmes, highlighting key policy recommendations. The findings draw on analysis of programme monitoring data, qualitative case studies, focus group discussions and interviews. This paper is one of a series of research reports presenting emerging evidence on programmes supported by the LUL initiative, which aims to expand quality learning opportunities for disadvantaged children in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal.
Time to Teach: Assiduité des enseignants et temps d’enseignement dans les écoles primaires aux Comores
Publication Publication

Time to Teach: Assiduité des enseignants et temps d’enseignement dans les écoles primaires aux Comores

L’absentéisme des enseignants constitue un obstacle important à la réalisation d’une éducation universelle de qualité. Il est de plus en plus évident que l’absentéisme des enseignants constitue un problème particulier dans les pays à faible et moyen revenu du monde entier, les taux d’absentéisme scolaire des enseignants variant entre 15 et 45 % en Afrique subsaharienne. Aux Comores, les études existantes suggèrent que l’absentéisme des enseignants est une préoccupation latente depuis des années. Cependant, la recherchesur les facteurs, les politiques et les pratiques qui affectent la présence des enseignants restent rares. L’étude « Time to Teach » (TTT) vise à combler ce fossé de connaissance.
Lifting Barriers to Education During and After COVID-19: Improving education outcomes for migrant and refugee children in Latin America and the Caribbean
Publication Publication

Lifting Barriers to Education During and After COVID-19: Improving education outcomes for migrant and refugee children in Latin America and the Caribbean

By the end of 2019, 4.8 million refugees and migrants had left Venezuela – making it the largest external displacement crisis in the region’s recent history. Of these, 1 in 4 was a child. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, since November 2020, 137 million girls and boys are missing out on their education due to the prolonged closure of schools during COVID-19. The implications are troubling, especially for migrant and refugee children, for whom access to inclusive and equitable education remains a major challenge. This study collates evidence from Latin America, the Caribbean and across the world to gain a better understanding of the multifaceted linkages between education and migration. It estimates gaps in educational outcomes; identifies structural barriers to education; and highlights promising practices to inform policy.
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.
Time to Teach: Teacher attendance and time on task in primary schools Zanzibar
Publication Publication

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

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. Over the past few decades, Zanzibar has implemented a number of policy reforms and made tremendous progress in expanding access to primary education. Yet, the quality of learning outcomes remains weak. One of the major factors hindering the provision of quality education is teacher absenteeism, which is a prevalent phenomenon across primary schools. 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.
COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom. The impact of school closures on children’s nutrition
Publication Publication

COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom. The impact of school closures on children’s nutrition

In 2019, 135 million people in 55 countries were in food crises or worse, and 2 billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. COVID-19 has exacerbated these hardships and may result in an additional 121 million people facing acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. Further, since the beginning of the pandemic, an estimated 1.6 billion learners in 199 countries worldwide were affected by school closures, with nearly 370 million children not receiving a school meal in 150 countries. The paper presents the evidence on the potential negative short-term and long-term effects of school meal scheme disruption during Covid-19 globally. It shows how vulnerable the children participating in these schemes are, how coping and mitigation measures are often only short-term solutions, and how prioritizing school re-opening is critical. For instance, it highlights how girls are at greater risk of not being in school or of being taken out of school early, which may lead to poor nutrition and health for themselves and their children. However, well-designed school feeding programmes have been shown to enable catch-up from early growth failure and other negative shocks. As such, once schools re-open, school meal schemes can help address the deprivation that children have experienced during the closures and provide an incentive for parents to send and keep their children, especially girls, in school.
School-Related Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Building an evidence base for stronger schools
Publication Publication

School-Related Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Building an evidence base for stronger schools

The prevalence of school-related violence and, in particular, bullying is not a new or isolated phenomenon, nor is it limited to certain schools or countries. Abundant evidence indicates that bullying is widespread and has a negative impact on educational outcomes. Children who are victims of bullying can also be affected emotionally and physically in both the short and long terms. Evidence from low- and middle-income countries on bullying is less extensive when compared to the evidence available on predictors and effects of bullying from high-income countries. However, some findings for the Latin American and Caribbean region seem to suggest a similar picture, with a high prevalence of bullying victimization and association to lower reading scores in different subjects tested. This working paper first uses data from UNESCO’s Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study for nationally representative samples of sixth grade students to determine the prevalence of bullying and its association to learning outcomes in 15 countries of the LAC region. It then looks at interventions in countries of the region to mitigate the impacts of violence.
Unlocking Learning: The co-creation and effectiveness of a digital language learning course for refugees and migrants in Greece
Publication Publication

Unlocking Learning: The co-creation and effectiveness of a digital language learning course for refugees and migrants in Greece

COVID-19: Trends, Promising Practices and Gaps in Remote Learning for Pre-Primary Education
Publication Publication

COVID-19: Trends, Promising Practices and Gaps in Remote Learning for Pre-Primary Education

This paper examines the remote learning options that countries around the world have made available for pre-primary students and their families while schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights trends, gaps and emerging good practices that are supported by existing evidence.
COVID-19: A reason to double down on investments in pre-primary education
Publication Publication

COVID-19: A reason to double down on investments in pre-primary education

This paper summarizes the recent UNICEF analysis on investing in early childhood education in developing countries. It provides a benefit-cost analysis of investments in pre-primary education in 109 developing low- and middle-income countries and territories, using data from 2008 to 2019.
COVID-19: Effects of school closures on foundational skills and promising practices for monitoring and mitigating learning loss
Publication Publication

COVID-19: Effects of school closures on foundational skills and promising practices for monitoring and mitigating learning loss

While remote learning measures are essential for mitigating the short-term and long-term consequences of COVID-19 school closures, little is known about their impact on and effectiveness for learning. This working paper contributes to filling this gap by: 1. exploring how disrupted schooling may affect foundational learning skills, using data from MICS6 (Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys - round 6) in 2017–2019; 2. examining how countries are delivering and monitoring remote learning based on data from the UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank’s National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures survey; and 3. presenting promising key practices for the effective delivery and monitoring of remote learning.
COVID-19: How prepared are global education systems for future crises?
Publication Publication

COVID-19: How prepared are global education systems for future crises?

This research brief is one of a series exploring the effects of COVID-19 on education. It focuses on how school closures affect children and the resiliency of education systems to respond to such disruptions and mitigate their effect.
Bringing Education to the Most Marginalized Girls in Nepal: Evidence from the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) programme Let Us Learn: Nepal research brief
Publication Publication

Bringing Education to the Most Marginalized Girls in Nepal: Evidence from the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) programme Let Us Learn: Nepal research brief

This research brief provides a snapshot of Girls’ Access To Education (GATE), a non-formal education programme that aims to bring the most marginalized adolescent girls in Nepal into school. The nine-month programme provides out-of-school girls with the basic literacy, numeracy and life skills they need to enter and learn in formal schooling. The analysis draws on GATE monitoring data for 2018/19, covering 7,394 GATE beneficiaries in five districts of Nepal, and is combined with qualitative evidence including case studies and focus group discussions with former GATE participants conducted in 2019. The mixed-methods analysis finds that the GATE programme has been highly effective, with 95% completion of the programme by enrolled girls and 89% of girls making the successful transition to formal school. Moreover, GATE graduates enrolled in Grades 3 to 5 in formal schools outperformed non-GATE girls enrolled in the same grades, even though GATE girls overwhelmingly had no prior formal school experience. Qualitative evidence reveals that poverty, caring responsibilities and parents’ traditional views may be important factors in explaining why GATE girls had never previously attended school. Despite this, GATE beneficiaries who were interviewed maintain a positive outlook on the future and have clear career goals. One of the recommendations stemming from this brief is to explore the feasibility of expanding GATE approaches to target out-of-school children in other contexts, as GATE has been a cost-effective solution in the context of Nepal.
COVID-19: How are Countries Preparing to Mitigate the Learning Loss as Schools Reopen? Trends and emerging good practices to support the most vulnerable children
Publication Publication

COVID-19: How are Countries Preparing to Mitigate the Learning Loss as Schools Reopen? Trends and emerging good practices to support the most vulnerable children

Some countries are starting to reopen schools as others develop plans to do so following widespread and extended closures due to COVID-19. Using data from two surveys and 164 countries, this research brief describes the educational strategies countries are putting into place, or plan to, in order to mitigate learning impacts of extended school closures, particularly for the most vulnerable children. In addition, it highlights emerging good practices.
Parental Engagement in Children’s Learning: Insights for remote learning response during COVID-19
Publication Publication

Parental Engagement in Children’s Learning: Insights for remote learning response during COVID-19

This research brief is one of a series that explores the impact of COVID-19 on education. It focuses on the potential parental role in learning and its association with foundational reading and numeracy skills. Fifty-three per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple text by the end of primary school age. In low-income countries, the learning crisis is even more acute, with the ‘learning poverty’ rate reaching 90 per cent. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 191 countries have implemented countrywide school closures, affecting 1.6 billion learners worldwide. In India alone, 320 million students from pre-primary to tertiary level are affected by school closures. In sub-Saharan Africa, 240 million are affected. With children currently not able to study in classrooms, the importance of learning at home is amplified and the task of supporting children’s learning has fallen on parents at a much larger rate. This is a significant burden, particularly for those who are also teleworking and those with limited schooling themselves.
Promising Practices for Equitable Remote Learning. Emerging lessons from COVID-19 education responses in 127 countries
Publication Publication

Promising Practices for Equitable Remote Learning. Emerging lessons from COVID-19 education responses in 127 countries

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on societies, globally. To help contain the spread of the disease, schools around the world have closed, affecting 1.6 billion learners – approximately 91 per cent of the world’s enrolled students. Governments and education stakeholders have responded swiftly to continue children’s learning, using various delivery channels including digital tools, TV/radio-based teaching and take-home packages for parent or carer-guided education. However, the massive scale of school closures has laid bare the uneven distribution of the technology needed to facilitate remote learning. It has also highlighted the lack of preparedness and low resilience of systems to support teachers, facilitators and parents/caregivers in the successful and safe use of technology for learning. Using data on access to technology from household surveys (MICS and DHS) and information on national education responses to school closures gathered from UNICEF education staff in over 120 countries, this brief explores potential promising practices for equitable remote learning.
2018 Results Report
Publication Publication

2018 Results Report

In 2018, significant gains were made in generating evidence to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children, build organizational capacity to conduct and use quality, ethical research on children, and set a foundation as an important convening centre for expert consultation on next-generation ideas on children. 2018 marks the first year the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti is reporting on the progress of research under the new UNICEF Strategic Plan (2018-2021). This plan is the first to clearly delineate the role of research and evidence as one of the eight priority change strategies for children. This report therefore is an account of the first year of work to generate critical evidence to inform programmes, policies and advocacy for children and young people around the world
Getting into the Game Report Summary: Understanding the evidence for child-focused sport for development
Publication Publication

Getting into the Game Report Summary: Understanding the evidence for child-focused sport for development

Sport is a powerful tool for involving all children – including the most marginalized and vulnerable – in group activities from an early age (UNHCR, 2013). For this reason, sport for development (S4D) organizations use sport as an inclusive means of helping children to improve their health; to develop their physical abilities; to develop their social, educational and leadership skills; and of course, to play and have fun. S4D initiatives come in various forms – from those that build personal and social programmes around sport, to those that include sport as one of many approaches to achieving social goals. This new UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti summary report analyses available evidence on S4D initiatives for children and youth. The findings cover how the key outcomes of education, social inclusion, protection and empowerment link to sport; what works in practice and how it works; the main challenges for implementation; and recommendations for better policy, practice and research.
An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children's Education in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children's Education in Rich Countries

In the world’s richest countries, some children do worse at school than others because of circumstances beyond their control, such as where they were born, the language they speak or their parents’ occupations. These children enter the education system at a disadvantage and can drop further behind if educational policies and practices reinforce, rather than reduce, the gap between them and their peers. These types of inequality are unjust. Not all children have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential, to pursue their interests and to develop their talents and skills. This has social and economic costs. This report focuses on educational inequalities in 41 of the world’s richest countries, all of which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and/or the European Union (EU). Using the most recent data available, it examines inequalities across childhood – from access to preschool to expectations of post-secondary education – and explores in depth the relationships between educational inequality and factors such as parents’ occupations, migration background, the child’s gender and school characteristics. The key feature of the report is the league table, which summarizes the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary school and secondary school levels. The indicator of inequality at the preschool level is the percentage of students enrolled in organized learning one year before the official age of primary school entry. The indicator for both primary school (Grade 4, around age 10) and secondary school (age 15) is the gap in reading scores between the lowest- and highest-performing students.
DEVELOPING A GLOBAL INDICATOR ON BULLYING OF SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
Publication Publication

DEVELOPING A GLOBAL INDICATOR ON BULLYING OF SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN

The rate of bullying among children is a key indicator of children’s well-being and an important marker for comparing global social development: both victims and perpetrators of bullying in childhood suffer across various dimensions, including personal social development, education, and health, with negative effects persisting into adulthood. For policymakers and professionals working with children, high rates of bullying amongst children should raise warning flags regarding child rights’ failings. Moreover, bullying amongst school-aged children highlights existing inefficiencies in the social system, and the potential for incurring future social costs in the communities and schools in which children live their lives. Inevitably, these concerns have contributed to bullying becoming a globally recognized challenge – every region in the world collects information on children’s experiences of bullying. Yet, despite the identification and monitoring of bullying having global appeal, so far, a validated global measure has not been produced. To fill this gap in knowledge, this paper develops a global indicator on bullying amongst children using existing school-based surveys from around the world. The findings of this paper show that bullying is a complex phenomenon that takes multiple forms, and is experienced to widely varying degrees across the world.
Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report
Publication Publication

Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report

This synthesis report, ‘Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Key Findings’ explores how the role of families, and family policies from around the world, can contribute to meeting the SDG targets. Given the key role families and family policies play in determining social progress, and in view of the national and international focus on meeting the SDGs by 2030, the timing of this publication is opportune. The report summarizes evidence across the six SDGs that cover poverty, health, education, gender equality, youth unemployment, and ending violence. It highlights important issues that policy makers may wish to consider when making future policies work for families, and family policies work for the future. Given the broad scope of the SDG ambitions, a key contribution of this work is to map how the successes of family-focused policies and programmes in one SDG have been successful in contributing to positive outcomes in other SDG goal areas.
Adolescents’ Mental Health: Out of the shadows. Evidence on psychological well-being of 11-15-year-olds from 31 industrialized countries
Publication Publication

Adolescents’ Mental Health: Out of the shadows. Evidence on psychological well-being of 11-15-year-olds from 31 industrialized countries

Mental health is increasingly gaining the spotlight in the media and public discourse of industrialized countries. The problem is not new, but thanks to more open discussions and fading stigma, it is emerging as one of the most critical concerns of public health today. Psychological problems among children and adolescents can be wide-ranging and may include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive conduct, anxiety, eating and mood disorders and other mental illnesses. Consistent evidence shows the links between adolescents’ mental health and the experience of bullying. Collecting internationally comparable data to measure mental health problems among children and adolescents will provide important evidence and stimulate governments to improve psychological support and services to vulnerable children.
Children’s Involvement in Housework: Is there a case of gender stereotyping? Evidence from the International Survey of Children's Well-Being
Publication Publication

Children’s Involvement in Housework: Is there a case of gender stereotyping? Evidence from the International Survey of Children's Well-Being

Evidence from national studies in developed and developing countries suggests that girls spend more time on housework. The most common explanation relates to behaviour modelling as a mechanism of gender role reproduction: children form habits based on parental models. This brief shows that participation in household chores is an essential part of children’s lives. There is a common pattern of a gender gap between boys’ and girls’ daily participation in housework across a diverse range of socio-economic and cultural contexts in 12 high-income countries. The persistence of this gap points to gender stereotyping – a form of gender role reproduction within a family that potentially can reinforce inequalities over the life-course.
Is University Education More Important for a Boy than for a Girl? Social approval of unequal educational opportunity across 21 countries
Publication Publication

Is University Education More Important for a Boy than for a Girl? Social approval of unequal educational opportunity across 21 countries

The attitudes that we hold are shaped and nurtured by society, institutions, religion and family; they involve feelings, beliefs and behaviours and represent a form of judgement. These attitudes and values define the power relations, dynamics, opportunities and choices between men and women, boys and girls. Societies vary significantly in the scale of egalitarian attitudes and beliefs related to gender roles and opportunities in education, politics, the family, and the workforce. Progress towards more egalitarian gender values is crucial for achieving gender equality among children and young people, which in turn is a pre-condition for sustainable development.
Quality of Childcare and Pre-Primary Education: How do we measure it?
Publication Publication

Quality of Childcare and Pre-Primary Education: How do we measure it?

Early childhood development is a driving force for sustainable development due to its multiplier effects not only on children but also on the community and society at large. Access to ECEC alone is insufficient for achieving positive child outcomes – it must also be of high quality. This Brief aims to summarize the key points of ongoing debate on this issue, and outline some of the challenges faced by high-income countries. A step towards a more holistic monitoring of ECEC would be to develop a coherent national strategy that recognizes diversity while addressing disparities; to respond to the needs of both child and family through strong partnerships with parents and ECE practitioners; and to apply measurement tools that capture a child’s engagement rather than test readiness.
Does Keeping Adolescent Girls in School Protect against Sexual Violence? Quasi-experimental Evidence from East and Southern Africa
Publication Publication

Does Keeping Adolescent Girls in School Protect against Sexual Violence? Quasi-experimental Evidence from East and Southern Africa

Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread globally. In their lifetime, one in three women will experience intimate partner physical or sexual violence and 7 per cent will experience forced sex by someone other than an intimate partner.
Global Kids Online, Research Synthesis 2015–2016: Summary
Publication Publication

Global Kids Online, Research Synthesis 2015–2016: Summary

Research is invaluable for contextualising online experiences in relation to children’s and families’ lives and the wider cultural or national circumstances. The Global Kids Online project aims to connect evidence with the ongoing international dialogue regarding policy and practical solutions for children’s well-being and rights in the digital age, especially in countries where the internet is only recently reaching the mass market.
Measuring Adolescent Well-being: National Adolescent Assessment Cards (NAACs)
Publication Publication

Measuring Adolescent Well-being: National Adolescent Assessment Cards (NAACs)

Advocacy and action for adolescents have been hampered by the lack of a concrete results framework that can be used to describe the state of the world’s adolescents and serve as a basis for goals and targets. In order to fill this gap, UNICEF, in collaboration with key partners, is facilitating the development of an outcome-based framework that incorporates the key dimensions of an adolescent’s life and a proposed set of globally comparable indicators that will provide a common platform to track the progress of adolescent development and well-being. The domains that have been selected for measurement are: health and well-being, education and learning, safety and protection, participation, transition to work.
Towards Inclusive Education: The impact of disability on school attendance in developing countries
Publication Publication

Towards Inclusive Education: The impact of disability on school attendance in developing countries

The paper aims to reduce the global knowledge gap pertaining to the impact of disability on school attendance, using cross-nationally comparable and nationally representative data from 18 surveys in 15 countries that are selected among 2,500 surveys and censuses. These selected surveys administered the Washington Group Short Set (WGSS) of disability-screening questions, covering five functional domains of seeing, hearing, mobility, self-care, and remembering, and collected information on educational status.
How Inequalities Develop through Childhood: Life course evidence from the Young Lives cohort study
Publication Publication

How Inequalities Develop through Childhood: Life course evidence from the Young Lives cohort study

Tackling poverty and inequalities is now embedded within the mandates of governments and organizations worldwide. UNICEF has been a leader on this, and concern about inequalities has also been picked up in the debates surrounding post 2015 development goals.
Understanding Governance of Early Childhood Development and Education Systems and Services in Low-Income Countries
Publication Publication

Understanding Governance of Early Childhood Development and Education Systems and Services in Low-Income Countries

This initial exploratory study examines the governance and finance of Early Childhood Services (ECS) in three countries (Cambodia, Kenya and Lao People's Democratic Republic) using an in-depth qualitative approach. The methodologies and tools provide an innovative strategy built upon the literature of governance and finance to understand how to improve access, quality and equity of ECS.
Education, Urban Poverty and Migration: Evidence from Bangladesh and Vietnam
Publication Publication

Education, Urban Poverty and Migration: Evidence from Bangladesh and Vietnam

Despite the acknowledged importance and large scale of rural-urban migration in many developing countries, few studies have compared education outcomes of migrants to those for people born in the city. This paper uses recent data from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam, to examine educational expenditure and children’s grade attainment, with a focus on poor households.
Childhood Poverty and Education in Bangladesh: Policy implications for disadvantaged children
Publication Publication

Childhood Poverty and Education in Bangladesh: Policy implications for disadvantaged children

This paper offers a theoretical understanding of childhood poverty and educational exclusion, building on the empirical findings of fieldwork carried out in Bangladesh to develop case studies addressing the questions, why do so many socio-economically disadvantaged children tend to drop out from formal secondary school, and why do some succeed?
Good Governance of Early Childhood Development Programmes in Developing Countries: The need for a comprehensive monitoring system
Publication Publication

Good Governance of Early Childhood Development Programmes in Developing Countries: The need for a comprehensive monitoring system

There is need for a holistic, comprehensive ECD monitoring system that covers the multiple facets (i.e. education, health, social protection and the social and economical context in which the child is born) of public and private ECD interventions in a country. Such a system is essential for ensuring that all children can reap the benefits of ECD. It serves as a means of support and oversight for monitoring the performance and planning of ECD policies and programmes in developing countries. The paper highlights the importance of comprehensive ECD monitoring for making evidence-based decisions, and discusses practical issues to take into consideration when developing such a system.

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

Reopening the Future: Prioritizing Pre-primary Education
Event Event

Reopening the Future: Prioritizing Pre-primary Education

27 July 2021 - Join UNICEF, UNESCO and World Bank for a webinar event on prioritizing pre-primary education.Participants will learn through the sharing of good practices and implementer experiences, how partners are working to address learning gaps, and the role and potential of ECE bridge/catch-up programs in stemming ECE learning loss. The webinar will consist of opening remarks by senior education representatives from UNICEF, UNESCO, and The World Bank Group, followed by a moderated panel discussion by education researchers, practitioners, and experts from Malawi, Mongolia, Senegal, and Uganda.
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.

Project team

Mathieu Brossard

UNICEF Innocenti

Bella Baghdasaryan

UNICEF Innocenti

Amparo Barrera

UNICEF Innocenti

Renaud Comba

UNICEF Innocenti

Matej Damborsky

UNICEF Innocenti

Mayra Delgado

UNICEF Innocenti

Thomas Dreesen

UNICEF Innocenti

Lorena Levano Gavidia

UNICEF Innocenti

Natasha Graham

UNICEF Innocenti

Ximena Jativa

UNICEF Innocenti

Arsène Kafando

UNICEF Innocenti

Akito Kamei

UNICEF Innocenti

Sophia Kan

UNICEF Innocenti

Despina Karamperidou

UNICEF Innocenti

Alexis Le Nestour

UNICEF Innocenti

Michelle Mills

UNICEF Innocenti

Radhika Nagesh

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

Sonakshi Sharma

UNICEF Innocenti

Lara Stefanizzi

UNICEF Innocenti

Marco Valenza

UNICEF Innocenti

Hanna Wedajo

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