Education is one of a nation’s greatest assets and the foundation for strong and peaceful societies. However, illiteracy and low educational achievement are persistent challenges for many developing countries, for international agencies, for global educational programmes and for the achievement of the world’s education goals.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2000 created greater awareness of the state of education in developing countries and the massive efforts needed to achieve the MDG targets of universal access to primary education, as well as full global literacy and numeracy.While major strides were made on access to education by the 2015 deadline for the MDGs, the quality of education remained a major concern.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out new ambitions for education, with SDG 4 requiring a quality education from pre-primary to upper secondary level of education for every child by 2030. The global commitment to improving education captured in SDG 4 aims to address an educational crisis, with more than 617 million children and adolescents unable to read a simple sentence or handle a basic math calculation.
Today, we are faced with three major issues: there are many children who are still out of school and who have little chance of acquiring basic skills in reading and mathematics; there are children who are enrolled in school but at risk of leaving before they gain these skills; and the continuing and pervasive problem of poor quality education. This is why SDG 4 includes targets to ensure improvements in the quality of teaching, the inclusion of skills for a modern and increasingly digital society and ensuring that children and youth are not only in the classroom, but also learning.
As the custodian agency for SDG 4 indicators, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is leading the development of the methodologies and standards needed to produce internationally-comparable indicators. Based on this foundation, the UIS is working with national statistical offices, line ministries and international organizations worldwide to track global progress on education while creating the frameworks and tools for effective monitoring at national, regional and global levels.
The 2018 edition of the SDG 4 Data Digest: Data to Nurture Learning, builds on last year’s report, which proposed a conceptual framework and tools to help countries improve the quality of their data and fulfil their reporting requirements. In this report, we present the wide range of national and cross-national learning assessments currently underway and the assessment experiences of practitioners in the field. The report draws on these experiences to present pragmatic approaches that can help countries monitor progress and make the best possible use of data for policymaking purposes.
As this report shows, we do not need to create entirely-new monitoring mechanisms: we can build on what is already in place. For example, we are making great strides towards reporting on Indicator 4.1.1 on the proportion of children and young people at three different stages of their education who have a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics, thanks to existing national, regional and cross-national assessments.