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COVID-19: 40 per cent countries failed to support learners at risk says UNESCO

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New Delhi, June 24: At least 40 per cent low and lower-middle income countries across the world failed to support learners at risk during school shutdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to UNESCO's 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report.

COVID-19: 40 per cent countries failed to support learners at risk says UNESCO

The annual report's fourth edition, released on Tuesday, also pointed out that less then 10 per cent of countries across the world have laws that help ensure full inclusion in education.

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    "COVID-19 has given us a real opportunity to think afresh about our education systems. But moving to a world that values and welcomes diversity won't happen overnight. There is an obvious tension between teaching all children under the same roof and creating an environment where students learn best. But, COVID-19 has showed us that there is scope to do things differently, if we put our minds to it," said Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report.

    The report stated that education systems often fail to take learners' special needs into account.

    "Just 41 countries worldwide officially recognized sign language and, globally, schools were more eager to get internet access than to cater for learners with disabilities. Some 335 million girls attended schools that did not provide them with the water, sanitation and hygiene services they required to continue attending class during menstruation," the report said.

    The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) is developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO. It has the official mandate of monitoring progress in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal on education.

    The report provides an in-depth analysis of key factors for exclusion of learners in education systems worldwide, including background, identity and ability, gender, age, location, poverty, disability, ethnicity, indigeneity, language, religion, migration or displacement status, sexual orientation or gender identity expression, incarceration, beliefs and attitudes.

    "Almost half of low- and middle-income countries do not collect enough education data about children with disabilities. Household surveys are key for breaking education data down by individual characteristics. But 41 per cent of countries -- home to 13 per cent of the world's population -- did not conduct surveys or make available data from such surveys. Figures on learning are mostly taken from school, failing to take into account those not attending," it said.

    "Inadequate data means we are missing a huge part of the picture. It is no wonder the inequalities suddenly exposed during COVID-19 took us by surprise," Antoninis said.

    According to UNESCO estimates, over 154 crore students are severely impacted by closure of educational institutions across the world amid the COVID-19 outbreak due to which girls will be the worst hit as it will lead to increased drop-out rates and further entrench gender gaps in education.

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