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Supporting the out-of-school children initiative in east Asia and the Pacific

Stuart Cameron

Georgina Rawle Ian MacAuslan Maham Farhat Peter-Sam Hill Stuart Cameron Zara Durrani Zara Majeed A0509

The Out-of-School Children Initiative is a global initiative led by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, with the aim of documenting the numbers and profiles of out-of-school children in different countries around the world, identifying the reasons they are out-of-school, and helping to design policies that will ensure all children have access to pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary education.

In east Asia and the Pacific, we guided country teams to complete out-of-school children studies, focusing on their analysis of the barriers that keep children out-of-school and the policies that could address these barriers. This included advising on using evidence from different sources, helping teams to conduct new studies, providing analysis of existing data and literature reviews, summarizing the international evidence on key policy issues, and quality assurance and review of report drafts. We also wrote a regional report which synthesized evidence from across the different country studies.


Despite progress in some countries, many children remain out-of-school in the countries of east Asia and the Pacific. As part of a global initiative, UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics work with countries to analyze how many children are out-of-school, who these children are, what the barriers are that prevent them from accessing school, and what policies can be used to overcome these.

However, countries often have difficulty using the evidence that is available and gathering new evidence, in order to inform policy. We supported this process by analyzing data, reviewing evidence on barriers and policy, and guiding country teams in the use of systematic frameworks for assessing and using different sources of evidence. 

Our approach

Country teams including staff of ministries of education, academics, and local consultants, produced the out-of-school children studies with our support. Our team worked flexibly through a combination of in-country and remote support, both to help the country teams and contribute parts of the analysis. 

Specific forms of support included:

  • Analyzing data on numbers of out-of-school children across the region
  • Guiding country teams on assessing the strength of evidence from different sources, identifying which barriers matter most, and evaluating current policies and future policy options
  • Reviewing existing studies from across the region on the reasons for children being out-of-school and how effective policies have been in addressing those reasons
  • Helping country teams to review the design and implementation of existing policy in each country
  • Advising on the international policy evidence and how it can be applied in each country
  • Leading workshops to identify critical barriers that keep children out-of-school, the policies that aim to address them, and policy changes that may be needed
  • Finalizing and quality-assuring country reports
  • Writing the regional synthesis report


The out-of-school children country studies filled an important gap in evidence-based policy-making in the east Asia and Pacific region, highlighting both progress and the remaining children who have not been reached with existing policies. Our support across the region helped countries to learn from each other’s experiences and built capacity among local research teams. The project aimed to work closely with ministries of education so that the final reports had greater credibility in policymakers’ eyes.