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Issue note: How cities are utilizing the power of non-formal and informal learning to respond to the COVID-19 crisis

16 September 2020

A new UNESCO issue note, produced by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), aims to support education policy-makers and planners in utilizing the power of non-formal and informal learning to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. It explains lessons learned and suggests concrete measures for action.

In almost all countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, cities are the epicentres of infection and the frontlines for dealing with the vast implications of this public health emergency. In pursuit of effective education responses, many cities have mobilized cross-sectoral resources and are promoting, supporting and developing a variety of non-formal and informal learning initiatives to ensure continuity of education and equip and empower citizens with multi-faceted tools to face the crisis.

Non-formal and informal learning initiatives represent additional opportunities to reach underserved communities, promote relevant learning outcomes and organize flexible and efficient programmes. These inherently adaptable learning modalities are well-suited to rapidly changing circumstances, such as those surrounding COVID-19, and have therefore become a critical part of many cities’ educational response to the pandemic, underpinning urban resilience and the capacity to recover from crises.

Non-formal and informal learning initiatives have demonstrated their advantage in addressing the needs of the population in general and of vulnerable groups in particular, such as students from low socio-economic backgrounds, ageing populations, people with disabilities, individuals with underlying health conditions, migrants and refugees, and women and girls, who have been disproportionately affected in the context of the pandemic.

The crucial role of non-formal and informal education and learning has been increasingly acknowledged in discussions and proposed solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. To a great extent, this is due to the necessary closure of formal education schools due to the pandemic, but also because municipal governments tend to have a more direct influence on non-formal than formal education at the local level. Furthermore, non-formal and informal learning are well-suited modalities for learning programmes designed to change people’s behaviour and ways of thinking, which has become a priority as the pandemic spreads rapidly.

The issue note, How cities are utilizing the power of non-formal and informal learning to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, not only shares various lessons from past practices and the current crisis but also provides practical tips for designing policy interventions. UNESCO Education Sector’s issue notes cover key topics related to the COVID-19 education response. This is one of the several issue notes produced by UIL.

Download the issue note: How cities are utilizing the power of non-formal and informal learning to respond to the COVID-19 crisis