Ten Problems for Education in the 2020s

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Literature Review: Education Problems for the 2020s

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns have interrupted conventional schooling with nationwide school closures in most OECD and partner countries, lasting at least 10 weeks in the majority of them [1]. While the educational community has made important efforts to maintain learning continuity during this period, children and students have had to rely more on their own resources to continue learning remotely through the Internet, television or radio. Disadvantaged students have had the hardest time adjusting to distance learning. Spending on education may also be compromised in the coming years. As emergency public funds might be directed to health and social welfare, long-term public spending on education is at risk despite short-term stimulus packages in some countries.

It has become increasingly important for students of all ages to be able to access and use the Internet for learning [2]. This topic became especially salient as schools moved to remote learning in response to COVID-19 concerns at the start of 2020. In 2018, some 94 percent of 3- to 18-year-olds had home internet access in the United States: 88 percent had access through a computer, and 6 percent had access only through a smartphone. The remaining 6 percent had no internet access at home.

In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, most countries around the world have decided to temporarily close educational institutions. However, learning has not stopped but is now fully taking place online as schools and universities provide remote schooling. COVID-19 will not affect students equally, will influence negatively both cognitive and non-cognitive skills acquisition, and may have important long-term consequences in addition to the short-term ones [3].

UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office developed the Programme Guidance ‘Adolescents’ Potential Unleashed: Improving Second-Decade Education and Learning in East Asia and the Pacific’ [4] to help UNICEF Country Offices to define clear priorities, strategies and interventions to address these challenges around adolescents’ education and learning. The guidance suggests the definition of data-driven and evidence-based programming, embracing innovations, promising partnerships and cross-sectoral work to strengthen the education system and alternative modalities to foster adolescents’ learning and skills. It suggests a strong equity and gender focus.

The Stepping Up – Refugee Education in Crisis report [5] tells the stories of some of the world’s 7.1 million refugee children of school age under UNHCR’s mandate. In addition, it looks at the educational aspirations of refugee youth eager to continue learning after secondary education, and highlights the need for strong partnerships in order to break down the barriers to education for millions of refugee children. Education data on refugee enrollments and population numbers is drawn from UNHCR’s population database, reporting tools and education surveys and refers to 2018. Where this data is not available, it has been estimated on the basis of available age disaggregated data. The report also references global enrollment data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics referring to 2017.

Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.

Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Education in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:

  1. funding
  2. safety,
  3. technology,
  4. standardization,
  5. teachers,
  6. lifelong learning,
  7. diversity,
  8. creativity,
  9. accreditation,
  10. new trends.

Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.

The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.


[1] OECD, “Education at a Glance 2020”, 8 Set 2020, OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,, online at , accessed on 15 Jan 2021

[2] B. Hussar et al., “The Condition of Education 2020”, 19 May 2020, NCES 2020-144, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, online at

[3] G. Di Pietro et al., “The likely impact of COVID-19 on education: Reflections based on the existing literature and recent international datasets”, 2020, JRC Technical Report, European Commission, online at

[4] F. Benavides et al. , “Improving Second-Decade Education and Learning in East Asia and the Pacific”, 2019, UNICEF , online at 

[5] F. Grandi et al., “Stepping Up – Refugee Education in Crisis”, 2019, UNHCR, online at

“Ten Problems for Education in the 2020s” booklet for Amazon Kindle, 2020; click on the cover to go to the dedicated Amazon listing page

booklet updated on 26 Jan 2021, now on sale as version 1.1

By TenProblems

Literature Reviews for Inquisitive Minds