The countries in the East Asia and Pacific region were the first to be impacted by COVID-19 and the ensuing major public health emergency caused by the pandemic. This situation has affected education provision in all of the 27 countries supported by UNICEF programmes since late January 2020. The rapidity and global scale of the educational disruption was unparalleled. By the end of March 2020, all countries in the region have closed schools, affecting the education of over 325 million children.
National health and education systems are facing the challenge to provide continued learning opportunities in the places where schools have closed and to protect students upon school reopening. While almost all countries in the region established distance learning programmes, UNICEF estimates that at least 80 million children in the region were not able continue learning remotely, mainly due to a lack of equipment needed for learning at home. With strict quarantine measures decreasing new cases of COVID-19, countries gradually started to reopen schools in April and May. By the end of September 2020, most countries have started school reopening with the exception of the Philippines. New COVID19 cases and hotspots in countries, which seemed to have successfully managed to control the spread of COVID-19 including China, Malaysia and Thailand, resulted in temporary and local school closures. All schools in Myanmar closed again after previously reopening. The secondary impacts of the crisis, and especially the economic and financial fallout, are expected to negatively impact the education system in the mid- and long-term and put education gains achieved pre-COVID-19 at risk.
As of the end of September, 24 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region have started or completed the gradual reopening of schools. All or a majority of schools reopened in 22 countries in the region providing renewed access to education to around 279 million children (see Figure 1). In September, schools have started gradual reopening in Cambodia and Mongolia. Three countries – DPRK, Indonesia and Timor-Leste – have only partially reopened schools for safety considerations and due to variations in case incidences across geographic areas. Indonesia for example opened schools in districts identified as low and moderate risk only. At the same time, schools in two countries – Myanmar and the Philippines – remain fully closed negatively impacting learning continuity for more than 34 million children. In September, all schools were closed again in Myanmar having previously reopened. All schools in the Philippines remain closed without a starting date for face-to-face classes having been announced.