By Silvia Montoya and Jordan Naidoo, co-chairs of the Technical Co-operation Group for SDG 4 – Education 2030 Indicators
A crucial list of indicators for the achievement of the world’s global education goals was endorsed on Friday in Madrid. The meeting of the Technical Co-operation Group for SDG 4 – Education 2030 (TCG) signed off on the list of thematic indicators on education that countries have agreed to start using in 2017 to monitor progress.
The list has emerged from numerous discussions and debates and has already received broad approval. But some technical questions over their implementation remained. So the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), which co-chairs the TCG, recently conducted an online survey of TCG members – which includes representatives of governments, partner organizations and civil society groups – and the public to help fine-tune the list, generating more than 50 responses, many of them from Member States. At the Madrid meeting, the TCG scrutinized the list to ensure that the indicators are feasible and fit for purpose.
What are the indicators?
The SDG4-Education 2030 Framework for Action (FFA) proposes a total of 43 thematic indicators. These include the 11 global monitoring indicators that have already been ‘locked in’ during a process steered by the United Nations Statistical Division. While each global indicator focuses on the outcomes of a SDG4 target (such as the percentage of children meeting a minimum proficiency level in reading), the broader set of thematic indicators are designed to cover the underlying factors (such as the percentage of children out of school or over-age for their grade) that should be addressed in order to achieve each target. These are the indicators that were finalized in Madrid.
Definitions, data and possibly additional indicators
As of today, we have a list of 29 global and thematic indicators, some of which will require additional development, that we can realistically, report on from early 2017 (download the table).
The TCG concluded that the remaining 14 indicators, as proposed in the FFA, require further development. These indicators have not been discarded – but more methodological work, data collection and possibly revision is needed before they will be effective for monitoring purposes.
For example, further methodological work is needed on 4.7.4, which is related to the percentage of students who understand global citizenship and sustainability, and 4.a.3 on the number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions. Standard definitions are needed to ensure that the resulting indicators are comparable across countries.
In other cases, the challenge is to extend the country coverage of the data sources used to produce the indicators. Latin America, for example, is the only region that reports internationally-comparable data for indicator 4.6.3 on the percentage of illiterate adults and youth enrolled in literacy programmes.
The TCG also identified certain areas that, in addition to needing development or revision, may require additional indicators. For example, Target 4.3 calls for equal access for women and men to affordable quality technical, vocational and tertiary education. Yet the current list of global and thematic indicators for this target does not reflect the concepts of affordability or quality and thus additional indicators may be required.
To resolve these issues, the TCG agreed to a UIS proposal to create a series of working groups, chaired by Member States, in three crucial areas.
The first would focus on the methodological issues and data availability issues related to the thematic indicators that need further development. The second working group would focus specifically on indicators related to learning outcomes through the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning
The third would work on capacity building, recognizing the unprecedented demand for statistics being placed on countries. This group would:
- identify capacity issues at the global and national level to report specific indicators;
- develop the methodological tools and resources so that countries can “take ownership” of the global and thematic indicators and understand the data requirements, potential data sources and calculation techniques;
- establish a network of stakeholders to support countries’ needs;
- inform countries about the processes used to collect data and produce indicators to ensure transparency and accountability; and
- develop a mechanism to help countries develop their own National Strategies for the Development of Education Statistics. This is all part of the long-standing role of the UIS to serve as the nexus between national and international education data. It is a role we relish as the international education community moves ahead with the global and thematic indicators in the pursuit of SDG4.
The fourth working group would focus on strengthening of reporting of the SDG4 data. Countries and international agencies would, for example, benefit enormously from a comprehensive guide to help them collect and disseminate SDG4 data.