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The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its indicator framework set a high standard for national and international information systems. Monitoring the implementation of, and progress towards, the multiple components of the stand alone education goal (Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4) requires quality data. Defining the standards of quality data production and assessing the quality of data for this purpose are challenges underlying the national and international monitoring mechanisms already in place. In particular, what changes need to occur and by whom are critical questions to obtaining viable cross nationally-comparable data on education.

During the process of developing indicators and producing data, countries and advisory groups called for transparency and appropriate documentation of statistical processes. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and its partner agencies are major contributors in terms of data collection, indicator development and strengthening of national data systems for quality monitoring of SDG 4. Given the gap between national statistical capacities and the stringent set of expectations for quality data production, the UIS is providing national stakeholders with the methodologies and instruments they need to face the monitoring challenge of the SDG 4 agenda.

This year’s edition of the Sustainable Development Data Digest is dedicated to the theme “Quality data to monitor the progress of SDG 4 and statistical capacity development in countries”. Section 1 examines the new SDG 4 monitoring framework and defines the global and thematic levels of monitoring education. It takes the reader through recent events and processes that culminated in the development of a proposed selection of 43 indicators – 11 global indicators and 32 thematic indicators – to monitor SDG 4. Within this framework is the need to develop and validate new methodologies and refine existing methodologies to ensure crosscountry comparability. Currently, many countries will struggle to meet the reporting requirements, sending a message of urgency to support capacity building for national data collection efforts for SDG 4.

Section 2 describes the UIS vision for improving the quality of education data at national and international levels. Based on the call for a data revolution, UIS capacity development tools can enable countries to enhance the quality of their national education statistical systems. Data quality assessment frameworks at the national planning level and at the statistical process level serve as diagnostic tools. Sustained and coordinated efforts among international and regional statistical stakeholders are also important to define and validate comparable education data.

Section 3 focuses on the latest activities of the UIS at the national level to build better statistical systems and engage national stakeholders in the ownership and sustainability of their processes. The UIS is working with national statistical systems to take into account education data needs and develop a sector wide approach to education statistics so as to strengthen the quality SDG 4 indicators. To implement this approach, the UIS has developed a set of tools which are adapted for use by national teams to assess the availability of key data and evaluate the quality of the institutional environment, statistical processes and statistical outputs for each existing education information system.

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