Gender dynamics also play an important role in learning, and girls on average performed better than boys, regardless of socioeconomic status or school location. However, when looking specifically at girls’ performance, girls of the upper quartile in four countries perform at a lower level than girls of the bottom quartile in the other two countries. This shows that millions of girls are still below their potential.
On the more positive side, in all countries children who attended at least one year of preschool education consistently performed better than children who had not. On average, children who felt better and safer at school performed better than children who reported less positive feelings. In all countries, higher levels of parental engagement were associated with higher average scores.
Global citizenship: what do children think about school, community and global matters?
New data was collected on children’s attitudes, values and behaviors around “global citizenship”, a concept that includes community, societal, environmental and world affairs. On average, 90% of children think it is important to learn how to protect the environment and around 85% want to learn how to solve problems in their communities.
On average, 70% of children agree they should be able to say what they think about their governments, and for all ethnic/racial groups to be treated equally. At the same time, less than half of the children participating in the study reported having some experience in speaking in an organized debate or a discussion about problems in the world.
Call to action: The way forward to improve learning amid Covid-19 and beyond
SEA-PLM 2019 presents a wide range of strong, equity-focused policy recommendations to facilitate improvement of students’ learning. These focus on improving foundational learning and skills for all students.
In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and the forthcoming recovery phases, these recommendations are even more relevant and more urgent and the crisis can be taken as an opportunity to build better foundational learning experiences to achieve learning for all through more resilient and inclusive education systems.
The recommendations are as follows:
- Prioritize early learning in disadvantaged contexts.
- Guarantee a solid start in primary education through on-time enrollment and progression for all children, especially the disadvantaged.
- Ensure explicit and progressive learning standards in the curriculum of basic education, including in digital and blended learning options.
- Support motivated and experienced teachers and positive school environments.
- Use data, monitoring and research to achieve better learning.
- Participate in, and support SEA-PLM 2023 activities, including opportunities and challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
SEA-PLM 2019 data show that learning for all children is still a far-off goal and that countries face aggravated challenges ahead owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, the SEA-PLM program invites all countries in Southeast Asia, as well as their partners, to continue this work and improve the capacity to measure learning outcomes, use data, and allow for peer exchange on policies and practices.
In 2021, SEA-PLM Secretariat, UNICEF and SEAMEO, will continue working with countries and partners to support governments to continue analyzing and using SEA-PLM 2019 data to improve the life of every child in their countries.