The increasing global commitment to prioritize foundational learning has the potential to transform education systems and meet countries’ ambitious learning targets. However, the most marginalized children and young people still risk being left behind, without the benefits of basic literacy, numeracy and transferable skills.
To prevent this, efforts to improve foundational learning must start with the most marginalized and – where needed – extend beyond the early grades and formal primary schooling.
Including all marginalized children in foundational learning efforts is possible, but only with intentionality and focus. Seizing the opportunity to do this now will ultimately benefit all children.
Why focus on foundational learning?
Foundational skills are the vital literacy, numeracy and transferable skills (such as socio-emotional skills) required for children to be able to learn and thrive in education and beyond.
There is a shared mission and growing consensus on the need to improve foundational learning as a key element to transforming education. Within its first year, the Commitment to Action on Foundational Learning has been endorsed by 26 countries and 30 organizations.
How do marginalized children benefit from these skills?
Marginalized children face an unlevel playing field, contending with barriers such as conflict and displacement, pernicious gender norms, disability, rurality, climate shocks and extreme poverty.
Foundational skills can help them navigate and overcome these barriers, forming the basis for significant social, economic and stability benefits for society. Foundational learning supports these children to:
- achieve more learning, knowledge and higher-order skills,
- navigate and succeed within a labor market,
- make choices for and take care of their families,
- support and strengthen their community and society,
- and increase resilience against shocks and improve intergenerational outcomes.
Who are the children that we need to focus on?
Unfortunately, in many low- and middle-income countries the vast majority of children are not learning.
Efforts to improve foundational learning should benefit all children—children in school but who are not learning, children in school and most at risk of dropping out, the 244 million children and young people out of school and often invisible to the system.
This figure unfortunately is likely to increase as fragility increases and climate shocks continue to disrupt an estimated 40 million children’s education per year.