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12 years of quality education for all children and promoting lifelong learning opportunities is fundamental to young people reaching their full potential, as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 4.   

Over the last two decades, we have seen significant improvement in access to education across all our study countries, with vastly increased school and university enrolment rates and reduced overall levels of student dropout.

Yet despite these gains, across many developing countries, shockingly low levels of achievement in basic foundational skills, such as literacy and numeracy persist . Young Lives evidence also shows that overall learning outcomes remain very low, with significant and widening inequalities in educational achievements both across and within our study countries.  Comparing maths test scores of our younger and older cohorts in Peru and Vietnam, equivalent skills in Ethiopia and India appear to be worsening. 

  1. There have been significant improvements in the health and wellbeing of the Young Lives children as they have grown into young adults over the last two decades. Children born today are less likely than their predecessors to be physically stunted, and more likely to have access to antenatal care, clean water and sanitation.
  2. Despite this progress, widening inequalities expose disadvantaged children to shockingly high rates of undernutrition across all our study countries.
  3. The increasing prevalence of overnutrition and obesity, particularly in India, Peru and Vietnam, means there is a growing health challenge of the double burden of malnutrition.
  4. Malnutrition in early life can have severe long-term consequences, affecting physical growth, cognitive skills, and learning in school.
  5. Early growth stunting can be reversed over a much longer period than originally thought, well beyond the first 1,000 days and even up to the age of 15 years. Physical growth recovery is associated with better performance in cognitive tests and progression through school.
  6. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rising levels of food insecurity, with an increasing proportion of vulnerable Young Lives households running out of food, potentially reversing past progress in improving nutrition and health. 
  7. Increased childhood exposure to climate shocks such as droughts and floods is also having an unequal impact on children’s development, with children from the poorest households most affected and significant effects persisting across generations.
  8. Rainfall shocks and malnutrition experienced by a mother while she is pregnant can affect the future development of her child’s vocabulary by age five. Longer term effects on basic maths and socio-emotional skills such as self-esteem, self-efficacy and agency, can manifest even into adolescence.
  9. Rainfall shocks and malnutrition experienced by adolescent girls even before they became pregnant can have a negative impact on future children’s physical growth, again from infancy through to adolescence.
  10. The pandemic is taking its toll on the mental health of young people, with a striking fall in subjective wellbeing and increased levels of anxiety and depression.

12 years of quality education for all children and promoting lifelong learning opportunities is fundamental to young people reaching their full potential, as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 4.   

Over the last two decades, we have seen significant improvement in access to education across all our study countries, with vastly increased school and university enrolment rates and reduced overall levels of student dropout.

Yet despite these gains, across many developing countries, shockingly low levels of achievement in basic foundational skills, such as literacy and numeracy persist . Young Lives evidence also shows that overall learning outcomes remain very low, with significant and widening inequalities in educational achievements both across and within our study countries.  Comparing maths test scores of our younger and older cohorts in Peru and Vietnam, equivalent skills in Ethiopia and India appear to be worsening. 

  1. There have been significant improvements in the health and wellbeing of the Young Lives children as they have grown into young adults over the last two decades. Children born today are less likely than their predecessors to be physically stunted, and more likely to have access to antenatal care, clean water and sanitation.
  2. Despite this progress, widening inequalities expose disadvantaged children to shockingly high rates of undernutrition across all our study countries.
  3. The increasing prevalence of overnutrition and obesity, particularly in India, Peru and Vietnam, means there is a growing health challenge of the double burden of malnutrition.
  4. Malnutrition in early life can have severe long-term consequences, affecting physical growth, cognitive skills, and learning in school.
  5. Early growth stunting can be reversed over a much longer period than originally thought, well beyond the first 1,000 days and even up to the age of 15 years. Physical growth recovery is associated with better performance in cognitive tests and progression through school.
  6. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rising levels of food insecurity, with an increasing proportion of vulnerable Young Lives households running out of food, potentially reversing past progress in improving nutrition and health. 
  7. Increased childhood exposure to climate shocks such as droughts and floods is also having an unequal impact on children’s development, with children from the poorest households most affected and significant effects persisting across generations.
  8. Rainfall shocks and malnutrition experienced by a mother while she is pregnant can affect the future development of her child’s vocabulary by age five. Longer term effects on basic maths and socio-emotional skills such as self-esteem, self-efficacy and agency, can manifest even into adolescence.
  9. Rainfall shocks and malnutrition experienced by adolescent girls even before they became pregnant can have a negative impact on future children’s physical growth, again from infancy through to adolescence.
  10. The pandemic is taking its toll on the mental health of young people, with a striking fall in subjective wellbeing and increased levels of anxiety and depression.