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Global learning crisis

The United Nations Children’s Fund has warned of low levels of learning, with only one in three 10-year-olds globally estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story, down from half before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prolonged school closures and a lack of access to quality learning during the pandemic exposed and exacerbated a preexisting learning crisis that has left millions of schoolchildren worldwide without foundational numeracy and literacy skills, according to the UNICEF.

“Under-resourced schools, underpaid and underqualified teachers, overcrowded classrooms and archaic curricula are undermining our children’s ability to reach their full potential, “UNICEF executive director Catherin Russel said.

‘The trajectory of our education systems is, by definition, the trajectory of our future. We need to reverse current trendlines or face the consequences of failing to educate an entire generation. Low levels of learning today mean less opportunity tomorrow,” she added.

To draw attention to the education crisis and the need to transform learning worldwide, the UN agency unveiled the “Learning Crisis Classroom,” a model classroom that represents the shocking scale of children failing to learn critical foundational skills.

A third of the desks in the model classroom are made of wood and are fully functioning with a UNICEF backpack placed on the school chair behind it, representing the one-third of 10-year-olds globally estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story – the marker for minimum proficiency in reading comprehension. The remaining two-thirds of desks are almost invisible and made of clear material to signify the 64 percent of children estimated to be unable to read and understand a simple written story by age 10.

The agency noted that with hundreds of millions of children being left behind at school, these children will struggle for the rest of their lives to survive and support their families.

If a global learning crisis is to be undone, it will require action from the local level. Education has to become a priority in countries, provinces, towns and cities so more of their 10-year-olds can be taught to read and understand a simple written story once more, building a better foundation that can pave the way for improvements in the quality of education.*

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September 2022
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