Friends for Education Call for Getting Learning Back on Track

On June 24, the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning organized a briefing on education recovery as part of its mid-year meeting. Panelists from UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank shed light on the new joint Mission Recovery initiative and presented constructive recommendations on how to reopen schools safely and make up for learning losses for students through catch-up programmes and teachers’ empowerment. The Group also discussed strengthening the focus on the provision of quality and inclusive education for all at the UN level through important upcoming initiatives.


Briefers underlined the huge learning losses for students across the globe due to the COVID `19 pandemic. Currently close to half the world’s students are still affected by partial or full school closures and over 100 million additional children will fall below the minimum proficiency level in reading. In response to this learning crisis, UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank recently launched a joint mission – Mission: Recovering Education 2021 – that is focused on three priorities: bringing all children back to schools, recovering learning losses, and preparing and supporting teachers.


Calling for a system-wide transformation, Robert Jenkins, Chief of Education and Associate Director of Programme Division at UNICEF, urged members to seize the opportunity during the recovery to rebuild resilient education systems through broad-based partnerships. Getting marginalized children back to school and providing them with a full range of support and care should be a priority. Joining the discussion on the financial side, Mrs Raja Bentaouet Kattan, Lead of Partnerships at the World Bank, expressed serious concern about the widening learning poverty exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As per UNESCO Institute for Statistics, she noted that COVID-related school closures could increase the learning poverty rate in the low- and middle-income countries by 10 percentage points, from 53% to 63%. In this context, she underlined three components of the World Bank’s actions in support of the Mission Recovery initiative: supporting foundational learning; promoting after school tutoring and other catch-up programmes; measuring students’ learning losses and performances while tailoring teaching to each student’s needs. She particularly stressed the importance of integrating digital technologies into schools by improving digital infrastructure and preparing students and teachers with digital literacy skills and numeracy skills. Bringing the focus on teachers, Carlos Vargas Tames, Chief of Section for Teachers Development at UNESCO, stressed the importance of supporting them in leading educational change in the recovery and driving the transformation of learning globally. Assisting teachers to adapt curriculum and assess students’ learning needs as well as fully utilize the digital technologies would pave the way for effective transformation of education. He also highlighted UNESCO-led events and initiatives, such as the Global Education Meeting, the Global Education Coalition and the Global Teacher Campus, in mobilizing partnerships in response to the education crisis and achieving the goal of reaching 1 million teachers by the end of 2021.


Following the panel discussion, members of the Group exchanged recent updates and activities on the education front. Among others, members were invited to join a high-level event in commemoration of the second International Day to Protect Education from Attack to be held on September 9, 2021. Additionally, they were sensitized on the upcoming Global Education Summit: Financing GPE 2021-2025 that will take place on July 28 and 29, 2021 as co-hosted by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.


The meeting also welcomed the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a new member of the Group.


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