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BRIEFAugust 17, 2022

Commitment to Action on Foundational Learning

Avantika Ganesh Yellur

MAHARASHTRA, GADCHIROLI , INDIA - JULY, 05, 2022 : Nine-year-old Avantika Ganesh Yellur,  pictured while writing in her classroom  at Zilla Parishad  Primary school in Aheri, a district sub-division in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, India.

© UNICEF/UN0685096/Magray

Recognizing that education is a human right and a foundation for peace, tolerance, other human rights and sustainable development, the United Nations Secretary-General is convening the Transforming Education Summit (TES) on September 19 during the 77th UN General Assembly.

The Summit seeks to mobilize political ambition, action, solutions and solidarity to transform education: to take stock of efforts to recover pandemic-related learning losses; to reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow; and to revitalize national and global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education.

As we approach the Transforming Education Summit, countries around the world are invited to endorse the Commitment to Action on Foundational Learning to ensure all children, including the most marginalized, develop foundational learning to realise their full potential and participate in society.

Nearly six-out-of-ten children globally are estimated to be affected by learning poverty, meaning they are unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of ten. In low- and middle-income countries, the share is an estimated seven-out-of-ten children. This learning crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Children who cannot read and understand a simple text will struggle to learn anything else in school. They are more likely to repeat a grade and more likely to drop out of school. They are less likely to benefit from further training and skills programs.  At a national level, this will lead to worse health outcomes, greater youth unemployment and deeper levels of poverty. Every child deserves the dignity and opportunity that foundational learning brings.

The Commitment to Action (CtA) recognizes that foundational learning provides the essential building blocks for all other learning, knowledge and higher-order skills.

It is a formal way for countries around the world and the global education community to demonstrate a commitment at the highest political levels to securing foundational learning for all children and to implement policies that will help to achieve targets under SDG4.

It is also an effort to articulate the shared ambition and evidence-based recommendations from national governments and partners, to ensure all children achieve foundational learning. By endorsing the CtA, countries and organizations commit to taking urgent and decisive action to reduce by half the global share of children unable to read and understand a simple text by age ten, by 2030.

Members of the global education community and other partners, including civil society and youth organizations, are invited to endorse the Commitment to Action. The first draft was agreed during the TES Pre-Summit in Paris (France) in June 2022.


To endorse the Commitment to Action, national governments and supporting organizations should submit an official letter indicating endorsement to Endorsement letters should include the contact information for an official representative and may include additional information regarding how the Commitment to Action will be implemented and advanced by the endorsing party. 


A Commitment to Action:

Ensure Foundational Learning as a key element to Transform Education

1.       Low learning levels – the barrier children face

a.     The pre-COVID learning crisis has been made even more severe by the pandemic. Currently it is estimated that, globally, six out of every ten children suffer from learning poverty: they are unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of ten.

2.       Foundational learning – why it is important

a.     The share of children unable to read with comprehension at age ten is a signal of the overall quality of education in a country. Foundational learning[1] provides the building blocks for all other learning, knowledge, and higher order skills that children and youth need to attain through education.

b.     Foundational learning is critical to enable all children to reach their full potential and participate in society.

c.     Ensuring foundational learning for all contributes to productive citizenship, sustainable development, inclusive growth, gender equality, national cohesion, peace and prosperity, and bolsters progress on all other Sustainable Development Goals.

3.       Transforming education through foundational learning – a commitment to action

a.     We commit to taking urgent and decisive action, where learning levels are low, to ensure all children, including the most marginalized[2], develop foundational learning to realize their full potential.

b.     We commit to reducing the global share of children unable to read and understand a simple text by age ten, by half, by 2030. This commitment requires achieving national SDG 4 targets[3] in each country.

c.     To ensure recovery and accelerate learning, we will work immediately to enroll all children and keep them in school, particularly marginalized girls; increase access to remedial and catch-up learning and teach children at their current learning levels; support teachers, giving them the tools that they need; and support the health, nutrition and psycho-social well-being of every teacher and child.

d.     We will work together to close the education resource gap, and enable the investments, leveraging technologies and other reforms, needed to effectively advance foundational learning.

Important note: This will be translated into other languages.

Note importante: Cette note sera traduite dans d’autres langues.


[1] Foundational learning refers to basic literacy, numeracy, and transferable skills such as socio-emotional skills.

[2] Marginalized children include but are not limited to the poorest children, girls, children with disabilities, and children in conflict and crises.

[3] This is consistent with, and will enable, achievement of other agreed global and national targets on foundational learning including SDG 4, and the global SDG4 milestone targets on girls’ education (40 million more girls in school, and 20 million more girls learning to read by age 10, in LICs an LMICs by 2026). The latest report on the national SDG 4 benchmarks countries have set is available here

The Commitment to Action is also available on the UNICEF website.


From Governments

Sierra Leone
United Kingdom
United States

From Organizations

VVOB – education for development
The Hempel Foundation