It is time to upgrade the SDG 4 learning indicator for young children

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

target 4.1 blogWe are on the cusp of a new phase in the global measurement of learning. For the first time, representatives of cross-national learning assessments have agreed on a set of minimum proficiency levels on the reading and mathematical skills that all children need to learn.

This exciting new development will be at the top of the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), which will bring together representatives of countries, assessment agencies, donors and civil society groups from 17-18 October in Hamburg.

At the heart of the matter is SDG Indicator 4.1.1 which measures the proportion of children and young people: (a) grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex.

A major challenge has been to define a standard of minimum proficiency that is widely applicable across countries. To pave the way forward, the UIS brought together representatives of just about every cross-national and regional assessment initiative[1] and brokered an agreement on a proposed set of definitions of the skills and performance levels that all children should acquire.  Continue reading

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‘A good education can change anyone. A good teacher can change anything’

teacher blogThis cliché emblazoned on chipped mugs in school staff rooms all over the world is impossible to refute. We all know teachers have the power to transform both individual lives, and the fortunes of nations. And, as the theme of today’s World Teachers’ Day goes, the right to a good quality education requires having a good quality teacher. So why are we still not investing enough money nor implementing the right policies to recruit them in sufficient numbers?

To meet the target of universal primary education many poorer countries have been hiring untrained and unqualified teachers, some of whom had not even finished secondary school. This widespread policy was a false economy. Quality should never be sacrificed to quota-filling. Teachers are not a commodity.  Continue reading

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Refugee education deserves higher priority in aid – but so do the data on it

refugeesToday at the UNICEF headquarters, as part of events marking the United Nations General Assembly week, a high-level meeting on action for refugee education is being co-led by UNHCR and Save the Children. It is giving prominence to the findings of the latter’s recent Report, Time to Act. This Report estimated it would cost $21.5 billion over five years to provide all refugees in low and middle income countries with education, $11.9 of which should come from the international community.

But tracking international financing of refugee education is difficult as we will be telling those taking part in the event. Two international databases provide information.

First, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs maintains the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), a voluntary mechanism used by all humanitarian donors and implementing agencies to track humanitarian response plans and appeals almost in real time. We know that $433 million was spent in humanitarian funding on education in 2016; it increased further by 4% in 2017.   Continue reading

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DFID announces continued support to the GEM Report and the UIS

By Sarah Hennell, Department for International Development (DFID), UK

1The UK is leading the call for 12 years of quality education for all girls and boys.  But is it possible to measure the quality of education for all children? Is it feasible to track progress? We think so, and I want to explain why and how the UK is supporting this work.

In September 2015 the international community agreed the  Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education. This was more ambitious than previous global goals. The SDG4 included a explicit focus on not just whether all children were in school, but what they were learning; and not just whether they had the minimum of schooling, but whether they were learning from early childhood through to adulthood.

But how could we monitor this commitment? Another milestone came in April 2016 when the SDG4 indicators were agreed by the UN Statistical Commission. This included the first ever global indicator on learning (whether children are reaching minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics at key stages of schooling). Importantly this needed to be broken down by sex, geography and wealth and – when data became available – disability, indigenous peoples and conflict affected. Continue reading

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One more week until the application deadline for the GEM Report Fellowship

fellowship blogThe deadline for proposals to become the first GEM Report Fellows is next Friday, 28 September. The expected start to the fellowship is January 2019.

The new Fellowship programme, supported by the Open Society Foundations, aims to strengthen the evidence base on education build research capacity, and reinforce the links between research, policy, and practice in education.

Fellowships will typically support fellows to conduct their research for one year, of which at least one month would be spent at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.  Continue reading

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Is global education data heading toward fragmentation?

A month ago, an article in Devex described the risk of fragmentation posed by the explosion of new international education financing mechanisms– especially as the pool of funding remains constant. Yet, the risk of fragmentation does not seem to apply just to funding mechanisms. A lack of cooperation is becoming increasingly apparent also in the production of international education data.

oos dataIn February, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the custodian agency for most of the indicators on international education targets, announced that 263 million children and youth were out of school in 2016. With the international community expecting the release of the new data for 2017 a week from now, according to the improved schedule that UIS recently agreed with countries, UNICEF has today released a ‘media report’, which claims there are 303 million children and youth out of school, or 40 million more than previously estimated.

Has there been a sudden emergency or crisis, some might ask? No. This new calculation simply involves the inclusion of children age 5, which is not how the international community has agreed to estimate the global out-of-school population. The crisis is just a UNICEF marketing gimmick. Continue reading

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Fighting gang violence in El Salvador by empowering young minds

By:  IBREA Foundation

ibra 1

Credit: @ibreafoundation, IBREA Foundation

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed,” wrote the poet Archibald MacLeish for the preamble of UNESCO’s constitution in 1945. Having experienced two world wars in less than a generation, its member states knew well that political agreements alone are not enough to build a lasting peace. For peace to be truly established, we must forge a moral and intellectual unity in our thinking toward each other, which is where education comes in.

In El Salvador, a country of 6.5 million, its Defense Ministry estimates that more than 500,000 – or 13% – of Salvadorans are involved with gangs, including relatives and children of gang members who have been forced to participate in crimes. Wars between MS-13, the country’s largest gang, and its chief rival, Barrio 18, have aggravated what is the world’s highest homicide rate for people under the age of 19. In 2016, 540 Salvadoran children were killed, an average of 1.5 every day. These conditions leave them with few options but to flee their country. In fiscal year 2016 alone, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended a record 17,512 unaccompanied Salvadoran minors. Continue reading

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