Girl and teacher smile as they look at the blackboard, schoolmates in the background.


For any child, education can open doors to the future that would otherwise be locked tight. But it’s not just about the future – children with healthy learning environments are better protected from exploitation here and now. Girls, especially, are safer from abuse and early marriage.


$47.3 million

focused on Education

114 programs

people reached

20 dollars

in benefits to society have been generated for every dollar invested in our Unlock Literacy programs


In India, functional literacy among children increased from

27% to 60%Fatehpur | 2016-2022

554,231children received school supplies and resources for their education including books, backpacks, uniforms and bicycles


172,483reading materials were provided to schools and communities in support of children's education


124,898children attended in-school or after-school literacy activities

Connected Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goal 04 logo: Quality EducationSustainable Development Goal 05 logo: Gender EqualitySustainable Development Goal 08 logo: Decent work and economic growth

Explore our investments and results

Explore our investments and results options

Real impact measured

Unlock Literacy is one of World Vision’s core program models in the education sector. In partnership with schools and communities, we use this approach to help primary school-age children improve their reading fluency and comprehension.

Based on a recent analysis, we can now say with confidence that Unlock Literacy is making a real impact—as a model, it is effective and delivering long-term benefits.

  • The literacy gains from our Unlock Literacy programs were comparable to adding two years of schooling, on average, for the over 221,000 children that participated over the past three years.
  • For every dollar invested in Unlock Literacy programs, $20 in economic benefits are being generated back to society, such as increases in lifetime earnings for the children who participated.

Read the lessons learned from our cost-benefit analysis to understand how we reached this conclusion.


An image of children sitting on the ground in a classroom, writing in workbooks.

Global Challenges

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes education as a legal right of every child. Yet despite significant progress on access to education resulting from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), education remains a privilege that is out of reach to millions of children.

Global disparities in early childhood development

Early childhood care and education (ECCE) is fundamental for children to achieve their full adult potential—it cultivates early brain development and foundational learning in pre-literacy, pre-numeracy and socio-emotional skills. Worldwide, young children’s access to high-quality, inclusive early childhood programming increased significantly between 2010 and 2020—from 46 per cent to 61 per cent. However, in low- to lower-middle income countries, fewer than two in three children attend organized learning before they enter primary school.

Children’s participation in safe, healthy and quality pre-school education with stimulating home environments is much higher in economically-rich households compared to poorer homes, with clear regional disparities. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 40 per cent of children have experienced a positive and stimulating home learning environment, compared to 90 per cent of children in Europe and North America. Approximately 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story at age 10.

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the gaps in ECCE provision and access, with the youngest children most affected by lockdowns and isolation. Some children are beginning their basic education without organized teaching in school-readiness—meaning they’ll be left behind from the start.

Barriers to quality primary and secondary education

An estimated 244 million children and youth aged 6-18 were out of school in 2021—118.5 million girls and 125.5 million boys. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, estimates suggested that global progress in reducing the number of out-of-school children was slowing down. Now, indications suggest up to 11 million children may never return to school after the pandemic, and those who do go back are likely to struggle, with an estimated 100 million children having fallen behind in literacy.

There are many barriers to children’s education. Families battling poverty and food insecurity may rely on their children, especially boys, to support the family through agricultural work or child labour. Girls are more likely to skip school or drop out entirely when their schools lack sanitation facilities to manage their menstrual hygiene—and their education is cut short when they are forced to marry young. Even as we see global school enrollment rates grow closer to equal for girls and boys, girls’ completion rates remain lower in low-income countries.

Adding complexity to the issue, an estimated 222 million school-aged children are affected by crises globally, and in need of urgent educational support. Of those, about 78.2 million are out of school—54 per cent of them female, 17 per cent with functional difficulties and 16 per cent forcibly displaced. Meanwhile, 119.6 million of those who do attend school are still not achieving minimum proficiency in reading or math by the early grades. In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries. Despite these particular challenges, education continues to receive inadequate humanitarian funding, well below the target of 4 per cent set by the United Nations in 2012.

Technical and vocational education to support youth employment and success

Globally, 267 million young people are unemployed or underemployed, with many lacking the skills needed to enter the workforce. This can lead youth down negative paths—to violence, risky behaviours, migration, trafficking, anti-social habits and depression or suicide.

Many factors prevent youth from being fully engaged economically, such as low education, mental health challenges, a lack of access to life skills opportunities or technical and vocational education and training (TVET), along with the stigma they may experience coming from impoverished or violent communities.

Refugees and internally displaced youth are the most affected. As of 2021, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached an all-time high. Among refugee adolescents, only 31 per cent are enrolled in secondary education and just 3 per cent in tertiary education, far from corresponding global averages of 84 per cent and 37 per cent.

Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, with school closures and economic downturns causing further disruption to youth education and livelihoods. As of 2022, youth unemployment rates reached approximately 14 per cent, with young people in the labour force three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

Please see our Annual Results Report for a full list of references

Two young girls smile at each other as they stand in a grass field with a bicycle.

Approach and Strategy

Our Goal

Girls and boys have the knowledge and skills to lead fulfilling, productive lives

Work with children and their families from birth to stimulate brain development and early learning
Support children to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy skills
Equip adolescents and youth with skills to earn a living
Influence governments to provide improved, gender-transformative and inclusive education services
Partner with communities to address social, cultural and gender-related access barriers to learning

World Vision invests significantly in providing access to gender-responsive and quality education in safe, equitable and inclusive learning environments for millions of girls, boys, adolescents, and youth, including those who are most vulnerable and hardest to reach, such as refugees and displaced children, and learners with disabilities.

  • Foundational literacy and play-based learning approaches are integrated within early childhood care and education and early primary grades. This involves training for teachers, community volunteers, parents and caregivers in child-centred learning strategies that help girls and boys develop pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, reading fluency and comprehension, and cognitive, language, social, emotional and physical skills starting from infancy.

  • Social-emotional learning and mental health and psychosocial support are embedded in our education programming for children and youth affected by crisis, conflict and emergencies to help them cope with trauma and stress, while building their resilience to thrive and succeed in both life and learning.

  • Life skills and empowerment curriculum equips adolescents and youth with life skills training, entrepreneurship programs, and connections to vocational training and employment, preparing them to become productive members of their communities.

  • Gender approaches address the barriers to education that girls especially experience, including norms, attitudes and behaviours that prevent them from attending or staying in school, while training teachers in gender-responsive teaching methods.  

  • Through education advocacy with governments and global education stakeholders we work to transform and strengthen education systems, with a particular focus on increasing funding for education in emergencies.

  • Through education research, we work with distinguished academic and research partners to generate findings on best practices, innovations and gaps in our programming—the data and evidence is shared with donors, partners and global education audiences.

  • ...
    A white jeep driving through a muddy path, featuring a rainbow and trees in the background.

    Investments and Results

    In 2022, $47 million was invested in 114 programs that focused primarily on education approaches, reaching 801,107 girls, 785,919 boys, 502,557 women and 496,539 men. This investment is spread broadly across all levels of fragility, though this year saw our education funding for most fragile countries increase from 22 per cent to 33 per cent.

    Education is a core pillar of our work in developing contexts and the majority of our education investments continue to flow through this programming type. However, as we reflect on gaps in our emergency work in both crisis response and fragile contexts, we see changes happening.

    In 2022, we conducted six major research projects on girls’ equal access to education, literacy networks, education technology, youth life skills and education for refugee and displaced children. We continue to advise on the steering committee and technical working groups for Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations’ global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. This includes our work with UNICEF, supporting quality informal education for refugee children in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, as well as supporting Lebanese girls and boys in accessing education and remaining in school. We are also providing continuous learning opportunities for displaced Ethiopian children from the conflict-affected Tigray and Afar regions with funding from Global Affairs Canada.  

    Compared to 2021, progress this year focused more on developing the skills of teachers and caregivers to support children’s literacy, and less on the distribution of resources like reading materials and school supplies. A highlight this year is Rwanda, where significant effort went into engaging parents in the Unlock Literacy project model. With our analysis showing that this model is very cost effective and efficient, we have reason to expect important literacy gains in the years to come.

    Finally, as part of the Government of Canada’s Together for Learning campaign, we host the Refugee Education Council, a global group of refugee and displaced youth that raises awareness about gaps in education funding and policies for conflict-affected children and youth.

    A wide-shot image of two people wearing backpacks, looking up at a massive green mountain area.



    Efforts put in by families and communities over the past several years have contributed to measurable positive change. Here are some recent education examples.


    Abraham’s mother is supportive of her son's business and proud of how far he has come.

    Abraham found hope and inspiration through the Vision for Vulnerable Youth Initiative program, which helped him overcome his struggles and pursue his dreams.

    Read more(link opens in new tab/window)
    A young boy in a preschool classroom smiles at the camera.

    Conflict and humanitarian emergencies have created a global education crisis that is limiting the futures of more than 200 million children around the world.

    Read more(link opens in new tab/window)
    A woman sitting in a chair smiles at the camera.

    Refugee voices must drive refugee education – a new 2022-2023 cohort of the Refugee Education Council brings together 15 refugee youth and youth from host communities around the world to inform Canada's Together for Learning campaign.

    Read more(link opens in new tab/window)
    Unless otherwise stated, data presented on this page reflects the most up-to-date results of World Vision Canada programs reported between October 2021 and September 2022, and any previous fiscal years available. Previously reported data may not match the current presentation as we continuously receive and refine data from our programs. If you have any questions, kindly reach out to us.