School can be a haven for children and young people growing up in poverty or areas torn apart by conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies. Going to school also empowers them to do the one best thing to secure their futures: learn. But when circumstances out of their control — like the COVID-19 pandemic — disrupt their education, vulnerable children lose significant ground and something else just as important — hope.
To help children keep up with their studies and hold fast to their dreams, UNICEF, Microsoft Corp. and the University of Cambridge developed the Learning Passport, a free online, mobile and offline platform that provides continuous access to quality education. The Learning Passport can complement existing e-learning platforms. But, because it is highly flexible and adaptable, countries can also easily and quickly adopt the Learning Passport as their national learning management system.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools shut down in over 190 countries, UNICEF, Microsoft Corporation and partners took full advantage of this flexibility to expand the Learning Passport. With over one billion kids' educations disrupted, solutions had to work for all students — those equipped to continue their schooling via online lessons and the most vulnerable who have no access to the tools and technology needed for remote learning.
In an extraordinary emergency response, the Learning Passport was scaled up to facilitate remote learning in countries with curriculums that could be taught online. As a result, the Learning Passport is now up and running in 12 countries, including Timor-Leste, Kosovo, Zimbabwe and Honduras, and in preparation for launch in 20 more. Children and youth who have internet connections and access to mobile phones, tablets, laptops or computers can now continue their studies — in their own languages — via a digitized curriculum with textbooks and a selection of supplemental content curated for their specific needs and their educators'. The Learning Passport also keeps track of every subject each student learns and guides them with little additional support required.
To serve the two-thirds of the world’s children between the ages of 3-17 with no internet access, all of the Learning Passport content is also available offline. Learning Passport hub servers set up in schools or other central locations allow students and educators to download the curriculum and resources via their phones or tablets and upload their assignments when completed. When connected to a TV or display monitor set up in a classroom, the Learning Passport hubs can also deliver educational content to students without mobile phones or tablets.
The adaptations made to the Learning Passport are a powerful reminder of what we can achieve together with our partners for children — UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore
"From school closures to isolation, to a persistent sense of fear and anxiety, the effects of this pandemic are impacting childhoods worldwide," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "With partners like Microsoft, we are able to swiftly deploy innovative, scalable solutions for children and youth. The adaptations made to the Learning Passport are a powerful reminder of what we can achieve together with our partners for children."
The Learning Passport is part of the Generation Unlimited Global Breakthroughs on Remote Learning and Work and Portable Certification. These innovations aim to use technology to address challenges learners, facilitators, and education providers face, particularly in conflict-affected and humanitarian settings. Generation Unlimited is a global multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people.
Top photo: Girls in Zimbabwe study together using the Learning Passport, which offers content tailored to students’ first language and their specific curriculum needs.