This guidance has been produced by UNICEF’s East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. The document is intended for UNICEF staff, education policy makers and planners in the East Asia and Pacific Region. Its purpose is to provide guidance and a set of activities to help parents and caregivers, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable, to engage with and support their children’s learning at home. These activities are intended to complement distance learning and home-based assignments during school closures due to COVID-19.
Across countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt children’s education. At the end of June 2020, more than 114 million children the region are still not able to fully participate in face to face learning in schools. Many of these children are still fully dependent on home learning due to school closures. Home learning also remains relevant after school re-opening as many countries are relying on blended learning, complementing face to face classes with distance learning.
School closures present several risks for children’s learning, particularly those from the most marginalized and disadvantaged communities, such as children living in poverty, those from remote and ethno-linguistic communities, children on the move, refugee and internally displaced children and those with disabilities. School closures may stall or reverse gains made in access among the poorest and the most marginalised groups of children. Children, particularly those from the most marginalized communities, risk losing significant parts of the school year, which could have an important impact on their academic progression and achievement; this is particularly a challenge for children in critical examination years.
Children left at home, particularly those from vulnerable populations, face a broader set of risks related to their personal health and safety. Without school many vulnerable children face a lack of access to social protection services, such as school feeding programmes, information on disease preventions and water and sanitation. In addition, many children with working parents or caregivers are forced to stay home alone, which puts them at risk of a wide range of protection issues. Ministries of Education across the region have established distance learning programmes to address these challenges and to ensure the continuity of children’s learning during the period when schools are fully or partially closed. Most of the programmes are designed to support children to follow the national curriculum through a series of home-based assignments. Teachers are available to varying degrees to support children in distance learning, but learning often heavily relies on parents or caregivers, particularly in the primary school years.
While distance learning programmes are critical for the continuity of learning, many children from the most vulnerable communities face challenges accessing distance learning programmes and home learning in general. Many children are not able to access distance learning materials due to a lack of access to the required technology, such as computers, internet or television, or face other barriers to accessing learning materials. Children from ethno-linguistic minority groups often face additional challenges accessing the materials due to language barriers. Most importantly, many parents or caregivers, particularly those from the most vulnerable communities, may not have the resources, time or skills to support their children’s learning at home.