More than 1 billion children are at risk of falling behind due to school closures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19. To keep the world’s children learning, countries have been implementing remote education programmes. Yet many of the world’s children – particularly those in poorer households – do not have internet access, personal computers, TVs or even radio at home, amplifying the effects of existing learning inequalities. Students lacking access to the technologies needed for home-based learning have limited means to continue their education. As a result, many face the risk of never returning to school, undoing years of progress made in education around the world.

With school closures across 188 countries (as of April 2020), many of them are exploring alternative ways to provide continuous education using technologies such as internet, TV, and radio. However, access to these technologies is limited in many low- and middle-income countries, especially among poor households.

  • In 71 low- and middle-income countries, less than 50 per cent of the population has access to the internet. [†]
  • MICS6 data on 18 low- and middle-income countries suggest that students from the richest 20 per cent of households are the most likely to be able to continue learning via the internet, whereas internet access among the poorest households is almost non-existent in some countries.
  • Despite these disparities, 73 per cent out of the 127 countries reporting to the UNICEF COVID-19 Education Response Survey are using online platforms to deliver education while schools remain closed.
  • About 75 per cent of 127 countries surveyed use TV to deliver remote learning, however, fewer than half of children in rural areas have access to TV as compared to their peers in urban areas. [†]
  • Radio is the third most-used platform by governments to deliver education while schools are closed, with 58 per cent of 127 reporting countries using this method. However, radio ownership varies across the regions. For example, only 25 per cent of households in South Asia own a radio, compared to 75 per cent of households in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Considering these data, it is important that countries do not rely on any single remote learning channel to reach all children. Additionally, expanding access to internet and other digital solutions for all children would be one key long-term priority to reduce learning vulnerabilities.

 

Resources on education and COVID-19

 

Dashboards

  • EduView – a dashboard that provides education data on policy responses to COVID-19, assets for remote learning, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools, scope of school closures, as well as number of affected students. The dashboard also provides an overview of the vast number of education indicators on key topics such as attendance, system efficiency, early childhood development, learning, equity, monitoring of the SDG4 education targets, and more.
  • Rapid situation tracking for COVID-19 socioeconomic impacts – a dashboard tracking some of the indirect socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, including those in education. It is based on recent data collection efforts from UNICEF Country Offices and UNICEF National Committees that entails a survey of over 100 questions.

 

Policy briefs

 

Blog posts