The countries in the East Asia and Pacific region were the first to be impacted by COVID-19 and the ensuing major public health emergency caused by the pandemic. This situation has affected education provision in all of the 27 countries supported by UNICEF programmes since late January 2020. The rapidity and global scale of the educational disruption was unparalleled. By the end of March 2020, all countries in the region have closed schools, affecting the education of over 325 million children.
National health and education systems are facing the challenge to provide continued learning opportunities in the places where schools have closed and to protect students upon school reopening. While almost all countries in the region established distance learning programmes, UNICEF estimates that at least 80 million children in the region (40 million of them girls) were not able to continue learning remotely, mainly due to a lack of equipment needed for learning at home. With strict quarantine measures decreasing new cases of COVID-19, countries gradually started to reopen schools in April and May.
By the end of October 2020, most countries have started school reopening. The Philippines reopened schools, but for distance learning only. New COVID-19 cases and hotspots in Malaysia resulted in temporary and local school closures in October affecting around 1.7 million children. All schools in Myanmar closed again after reopening last July. The secondary impacts of the crisis, and especially the economic and financial fallout, are expected to negatively impact the education system in the midand long-term and put education gains achieved pre-COVID-19 at risk.