Areas of focus
A sustainable approach
The importance of early learning is clear: during their first eight years of life, children’s cognitive and emotional development is greatest, and so investing in education at this stage can have a lifelong impact. As such, high-quality early learning has wide-ranging benefits for society. It allows more children to attend school, and it ensures that fewer children subsequently drop out, repeat grades or need remedial education. An early start in education also helps to provide equal opportunities for marginalized children, reducing the effects of generational disadvantage in societies. UNICEF works to give every child the best start in school by increasing access to affordable, high-quality early learning; by supporting parents, teachers, communities and policymakers; and by raising public awareness of the value of educating young children. Parental education and community-based programmes are crucial at this stage of learning.
In terms of improving the quality of education, it is important to recognize that school attendance alone achieves little. If children fail to gain basic literacy and numeracy skills or to acquire critical life skills, the investments of governments and local communities are wasted. Working with national governments, UNICEF strives to improve educational quality by developing national educational policies and standards in Asian countries in line with the principles of UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) programme. UNICEF also helps to strengthen the quality of education by supporting the development of curricula, training teachers, developing education materials and sharing good practices in teaching throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Equity in education
Equity in education means ensuring all children have an equal opportunity to learn. Not only is this in keeping with every child’s fundamental right to education, but it is also vital for a country’s development. If marginalized groups of children are not given the same access to quality education as their non-marginalized peers, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will be perpetuated – generation after generation. UNICEF works to identify and address the root causes of inequality that can affect children, including children with disabilities, who are among the most marginalized and excluded groups. Girls and boys who are out of school are also at much higher risk of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect, which adds to the importance of understanding why some children do not attend school and of supporting those children in learning.
Education in emergencies
Education in emergencies is an important focus of UNICEF’s work. All children are exposed to threats during and after emergencies, which can include natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and epidemics as well as man-made disasters such as armed conflict. In crises, education is often among the first services to be suspended and among the last to be restored. UNICEF works to strengthen the capacity of governments and institutions to prepare for and respond to humanitarian crises, and works tirelessly during emergencies to create safe learning environments and distribute essential education supplies.
Every child has the right to go to school and learn