Children in the poorest countries have lost nearly four months of schooling since start of pandemic – UNESCO, UNICEF and World Bank report finds

New report looks at national education responses to Coronavirus including lost learning; remote learning support for students, parents and teachers; school reopening plans; health protocols; and financing

Home > Media Contacts and Press Releases > Children in the poorest countries have lost nearly four months of schooling since start of pandemic – UNESCO, UNICEF and World Bank report finds

29 October 2020 – Schoolchildren in low-and lower-middle-income countries have already lost nearly four months of schooling since the start of the pandemic, compared to six weeks of loss in high-income countries, according to a new report published today by UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank.

“We don’t need to look far to see the devastation the pandemic has caused to children’s learning across the world. In low- and lower-middle income countries, this devastation is magnified as limited access to remote learning, increased risks of budget cuts and delayed plans in reopening have thwarted any chance of normalcy for schoolchildren,” said Robert Jenkins UNICEF Chief of Education. “Prioritising reopening schools and providing much-needed catch-up classes are critical.”

The report compiles findings from surveys on national education responses to Coronavirus carried out in nearly 150 countries between June and October. Schoolchildren in low-and lower-middle income countries were the least likely to access remote learning, the least likely to be monitored on their learning loss, the most likely to have delays to their schools reopening and the most likely to attend schools with inadequate resources to ensure safe operations, the report finds.

  • While more than two-thirds of countries have fully or partially reopened their schools, 1 in 4 have missed their planned reopening date or not yet set a date for reopening, most of which are low- and lower-middle-income countries.
  • Only 1 in 5 low-income countries reported that remote learnings days count as official school days, recognising the low-impact of remote learning measures, compared to three-quarters of countries globally.
  • Of 79 countries which responded to questions related to financing, nearly 40 per cent of low-and lower-middle-income countries have either already experienced or anticipate decreases to their country’s education budget for the current or next fiscal year.
  • While most countries reported that student learning is being monitored by teachers, a quarter of low- and lower-middle-income countries are not tracking children’s learning.
  • Half of respondents in low-income countries reported not having adequate funds for safety measures such as handwashing facilities, social distancing measures and protective equipment for students and teachers, compared to 5 per cent of high-income countries.
  • Around 2 in 3 of low-income countries were introducing measures to support access or inclusion for those at risk of exclusion.
  • More than 90 per cent of high- and upper-middle-income respondents required teachers to continue teaching during school closures, compared to less than 40 per cent of low-income country respondents.

“The findings of this report are stark, and the UK has a crucial role to play in mitigating the education crisis that faces our children,” said Anja Nielsen, Senior Policy Adviser at Unicef UK. “We are calling on the Government to commit to, invest in, and champion resilient education systems that deliver education for every child during its G7 Presidency and beyond.”

Other findings include:

  • Almost all countries included remote learning in their education response, in the form of online platforms, TV and radio programmes and take-home packages.
  • 9 in 10 countries facilitated access to online learning, most frequently through mobile phones or offering internet access at subsidized or no cost, but the coverage of this access was extremely varied.
  • 6 in 10 countries provided materials to help guide parents in home-based learning, while 4 in 10 countries provided psychosocial counselling to children and caregivers during school closures. These efforts were more common among high-income countries and in environments where resources were already available.

“The pandemic will notch up the funding gap for education in low and middle-income countries. By making the right investment choices now, rather than waiting, this gap could be significantly reduced,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education. “At the Global Education Meeting convened by UNESCO with Ghana, Norway and the UK on 22 October, some 15 heads of state and government, close to 70 education ministers and development partners committed to protect education funding and act to safely reopen schools, support all teachers as frontline workers and narrow the digital divide. This holds us all to account.”

“Despite widespread efforts, there are large differences in countries’ capacity to provide children and youth with effective learning. And there are probably even wider differences within countries in the educational stimulation children and youth have experienced.  We were worried about learning poverty before the pandemic and also about the inequality in learning opportunities. Now the learning baseline is lower, but the increase in inequality of opportunities could be catastrophic.  The task of reigniting the learning process is extremely urgent,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education.

Unicef UK’s Save Generation Covid appeal is supporting children and families impacted by Coronavirus across the world. Visit to donate and help #GenerationCovid. 


Notes to editors: 

  • The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest and most urgent global crisis children have faced since World War Two.
  • Children’s lives are being upended. Their support systems ripped away, their borders closed, their educations lost, their food supply cut off.
  • An additional 6,000 children around the world could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as the coronavirus pandemic weakens health systems and disrupts routine services like vaccinations. That’s one every 15 seconds.
  • UNICEF’s “Save Generation Covid” appeal is the largest ever for children in our 73-year history, and we urgently need funds for lifesaving support and services to ensure that children survive this crisis – and thrive beyond it.
  • Together we can Save Generation Covid. Visit to donate and help save #generationcovid. 

For more information, please contact:

Alexandra Murdoch, 0207 375 6179,

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030,


UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK.

For more information please visit

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UNESCO is the lead UN agency for education, in charge of coordination for SDG4. UNESCO works to build peace in the minds of men and women through international cooperation in education, science, culture, communication and information.

For more about UNESCO’s work:

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About the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group is the largest financier of education in the developing world. In fiscal year 2020, we provided about $5.2 billion for education programs, technical assistance, and other projects designed to improve learning and provide everyone with the opportunity to get the education they need to succeed. Our current portfolio of education projects totals $20.6 billion, including 86 COVID-19-related projects in 62 countries that amount to US$2.4 billion, highlighting the importance of education for the achievement of our twin goals, ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. We work on education programs in more than 80 countries and are committed to helping countries reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 by 2030.

For more information and a copy of the report, please contact:

Georgina Thompson, UNICEF NYHQ, +1 917 238 1559,

Roni Amelan, UNESCO,

Kristyn Schrader-King, World Bank, +1-202-560-0153,