The post-2015 global education agenda is beginning to take shape. The EFA Steering Committee Joint Proposal endorsed by the UNESCO Executive Board includes seven targets and the race is now on to ensure that the world can monitor progress towards them. How easy is this going to be?
The supply of monitoring data has increased tremendously since the list of EFA indicators was endorsed soon after the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000. But so has the demand for more refined measures of progress.
The first five targets of the EFA Steering Committee Joint Proposal shift the focus from whether education services are being delivered (e.g. enrolment) to the effects of education on children, young people and adults.
Are we ready to monitor such outcomes at a global level? The EFA Steering Committee has established a technical advisory group to tackle this question, of which the EFA GMR is a member. But how close are we to developing relevant indicators? What coordination efforts will it require from the international community? Over the coming weeks we are going to publish a series of five blog posts that examine these questions and others.
The first blog post will look at the concept of school readiness. The purpose of early childhood care and education is to complement the support and stimulation children receive at home – or compensate when children do not receive sufficient support – so that they are ready to reap the full benefit of primary school. But is there a common understanding around the world of what school readiness entails? What efforts have been made to measure such a concept?
Second, information on learning outcomes in primary and lower secondary education has expanded over the past 15 years to a degree that was not anticipated in 2000. This information prompted the EFA Global Monitoring Report to advocate for a measure of the number of children that do not reach minimum learning standards. But such a measure needs to be adopted and a methodology needs to be established to enable monitoring of progress. What will it take for experts to agree on such a standard?
Third, a similar question applies to youth and adult literacy and numeracy. There is now a shared understanding that simple literacy rate measures based on a self-reported ability to read are misleading, not least because there is a range of literacy skills so they cannot be assessed with a simple yes or no. But the cost of obtaining a refined measure of literacy is high. What feasible solutions have been practised that can be scaled up to give nuanced measures of literacy skills at the global level?
Fourth, the interest in whether young people and adults have the necessary skills for work is high. But studies that have tried to measure those skills have focused on literacy and numeracy. Given that monitoring job-specific skills is not practical at a global scale, are there other general competencies that can help individuals access decent work? What attempts have been made to assess such skills that are relevant and applicable across countries with different economic structures?
Finally, the post-2015 global education agenda is envisaging a focus on skills acquired through education for global citizenship and sustainable development. There is a call for clarity given the overlap between the two concepts. In addition, there is scepticism about whether such skills are measurable. How do we know when people have a strong sense of citizenship and are more sensitive to sustainability concerns? Has any progress been made in that direction?
We hope that the series will provide an opportunity for exchanging innovative ideas just as the process picks up for developing the education indicators that would be followed by a post-2015 Education Global Monitoring Report.