Target 4.1 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on primary and secondary education?


4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

4-1Progress towards target 4.1 will be seen as a key measure of government and international community commitment to the SDGs.

Target 4.1 envisages quality education and universal primary and secondary school completion as a path to relevant and effective learning outcomes. There has been a lot of interest in the monitoring indicators for this target and the three main concepts that feature in it: completion, quality and learning.


The ambition of universal completion of primary and secondary education

The target has been criticized for its level of ambition. While the new agenda aims to achieve 12 years of education for the current cohort by 2030, it should not be forgotten that 25 million children do not even access primary school. Almost 30% of children from the poorest 20% of households in low income countries had never been to school in 2008-2014.

Looking at participation, 91% of children of primary school age, 84% of adolescents of lower secondary age and 63% of youth of upper secondary age were in school. But with many children starting school late, and high levels of students repeating years, this indicator can provide an overly optimistic picture. Continue reading

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Target 4.2 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on early childhood education?


 4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education

4.2.jpgThe SDG target on early childhood development, care and education is the only one where two global indicators have been proposed: the participation rate in pre-primary education, and the proportion of children who are developmentally on track. This reflects both a great interest in early learning foundations but also uncertainties over the feasibility of measuring early childhood development outcomes.

Target 4.2 reaffirms the international community’s focus on ensuring strong foundations for all children in the youngest age group through early childhood care and education. Monitoring the concepts in the target poses at least two challenges: first, there is not yet sufficient information on how many – and which – children benefit from pre-primary education for at least one year; and, second, while the target goes beyond care and education to early childhood development, a monitoring mechanism for the latter is still at an early stage. Continue reading

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Target 4.3 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on technical, vocational, tertiary and adult education?


4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

4-3Target 4.3 covers a very wide range of education opportunities. For monitoring progress, two issues stand out. First, we must begin collecting information on adults participating in education programmes. Second, we need a common understanding of what makes access to technical, vocational, tertiary and adult education affordable.

Target 4.3 has expanded the scope of the international education agenda by including tertiary education. However, its defining feature is perhaps less the target and more the global indicator for the target, which covers adult education. The global indicator calls for us to measure the percentage of youth and adults participating in formal or non-formal education or training in the previous 12 months. This goes well beyond just technical, vocational and tertiary education, and expands the scope of the international agenda even further.

Going beyond technical, vocational and tertiary – to also capture adult education

The global indicator, by including adult education, corrects an important mistake. SDG 4 refers to ‘lifelong learning opportunities for all’. Lifelong learning comprises all activities undertaken throughout life with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competencies from a personal, civic, social or employment-related perspective but is often understood to mainly refer to education opportunities for adults. Yet none of the targets refers to adult education, which is a major omission given how vital it is for ensuring we can work our way to a more sustainable way of living.

Some data is available on adult participation in formal primary and secondary education. It shows that, of all those enrolled, adults made up 4% in primary, 5% in lower secondary and 10% in upper secondary education according to the UIS. However, this only gives a partial picture. Continue reading

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Target 4.4 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on skills for work?


4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

4-4Global monitoring of skills for decent work is likely to prove elusive because of the loose definitions of the target. However, by focussing on digital skills, we could help promote this agenda as long as these measures are culturally unbiased, are sensitive to changes in technology, and include adults.

Target 4.4 draws attention to decent work, which is enshrined within Articles 6 and 7 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Decent work respects fundamental human rights as well as worker rights in terms of work safety, remuneration and the physical and mental integrity of the worker. The ILO has further developed the concept.

It is less clear what skills are needed for decent work, however. Simply put, skills needed for work are specific to the job opportunities, which differ enormously across countries. Other than the foundational cognitive skills of literacy and numeracy, it is difficult to envisage any other skills for work that are amenable to global monitoring by satisfying three criteria: relevant in various labour market contexts,  measurable at low cost; and acquirable through education. Continue reading

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City leaders can employ education for more than just growing their economy

social-media-sliderOne area where education doesn’t have to make its case is in its power to foster economic growth in urban areas. Cities can attract human capital and foreign direct investment by positioning themselves as global hubs for higher education, skills, talent, knowledge and innovation. Take the megacity of Shanghai, China, as an example, which has access to over 100,000 graduates, and has doubled the proportion of college educated labour force in a decade. Similarly, Stanford University has reportedly had significant global economic impact: 18,000 firms created by its alumni are based in urban areas in its home state of California.

But cities are about more than infrastructure, clean air and economic growth. People, and more people every day, live there. The goal on Cities in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda aims to make them “inclusive and sustainable”. It says nothing about making them built up metropolises.

One of the major challenges cities face is that they house many people working in vulnerable informal employment. In 2013, domestic workers, homebased workers and street vendors accounted for about one-third of urban employment in India, for example; street vendors alone accounted for 15% of the urban workforce in South Africa. Since education is inextricably tied to employment prospects, it is a vital partner in fostering more inclusive economies. Our latest GEM Report, for instance, showed that 39% fewer workers from poorer backgrounds would be in low paying informal work and in working poverty if they attained the same education level as workers from richer backgrounds. Continue reading

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Visualising the remaining gaps in education

In recent years, the GEM Report’s World Inequality Database in Education has brought the magnitude of inequality in education between and within countries to wider attention.  Today, we are launching a number of new features on the website in response to Sustainable Development Goal 4.

The online database now allows visitors to order countries by how wide their inequalities in education are for each indicator using the parity index, where the most disadvantaged are compared to the most advantaged, for three characteristics: sex, location and wealth.

1It shows that, for example, despite improvement since 2000, significant gender gaps in education remain. In the case of lower secondary completion, the most extreme injustices are still at the expense of females with fewer than 90 females for every 100 males completing lower secondary school in 30 out of 121 countries. In Afghanistan, only 33 females complete lower secondary school for every 100 males.

However, the WIDE site also shows that disparities sometimes move in the opposite direction, leaving boys the furthest behind. In 17 countries, fewer than 90 males for every 100 females completed lower secondary school. In Honduras, only 68 males complete lower secondary school for every 100 females. Continue reading

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Target 4.5 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on equity in education?


4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations

4-5While there is progress toward monitoring education disparities, the new agenda calls for bolder steps to monitor different marginalized and vulnerable groups and the policies needed to overcome inequality.

The desire to ‘leave no one behind’ is the hallmark of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has spurred demand for global monitoring and reporting of inequality, a trend also confirmed by the theme of UNESCO’s 2016 World Social Science Report. This year’s GEM Report looks at three issues at stake when monitoring equity in education: how we should report inequalities, who we should report on, and what else we should report on beyond parity

  • How should we measure and report inequality?

The parity index is the proposed way for measuring inequalities in education at a global level. It expresses the value of an education indicator, such as access to education, or learning, for a disadvantaged group relative to its value for an advantaged group. The wealth parity index, for example, shows us that only 7 of the poorest 20% complete upper secondary education for every 100 of the richest 20% in low income countries. Continue reading

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