9th July 2022


Even before the emergence of COVID-19 and the mass school closures that followed, a staggering 90% of children in low-income countries could not read and understand a simple text when they reached their 10th birthday, a benchmark which the World Bank uses to define “learning poverty”. Illustrating the scale of global inequality on literacy, the exact inverse of this statistic is true in high-income countries where 9 in 10 children can read with comprehension at the age of 10. Similarly, around the world there are an estimated 387 million children of primary school age without minimum proficiency in maths. These factors combine to produce what is termed the “learning crisis”.

Supporting children to gain the crucial foundational skills of literacy and numeracy is both their inalienable right, and key to unlocking their potential. What’s more, it can be transformative for their communities’ and countries’ future prospects, helping to build more prosperous, resilient, healthy and equal societies. 

This report seeks to outline the opportunities for the UK to maximise its role in ending the learning crisis and achieve its stated ambition of being a part of global efforts to ‘to get all children into school and learning’. It is based around three action tracks, under each of which there are a series of specific recommendations for the UK Government to do so.

Image: Girls study reading early in the morning in a local school in Parwan, Afghanistan. Credits: UNDP / Sayed Omer