Education and Skills

How UNESCO is trying to plug the data gap in global education

The lack of data is making it difficult to track progress towards education goals.

The lack of data is making it difficult to track progress towards education goals. Image: Unsplash/Jerry Wang

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Education

  • Almost half of all countries are not measuring childhood learning.
  • This means that the learning achievements of 680 million children have never been measured.
  • The lack of data is making it difficult to track progress towards education goals.
  • UNESCO is developing new tools to help countries collect data on children's learning levels.

UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) has convened the first ever global Conference on Education Data and Statistics, to take place at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, from 7-9 February.

The conference will examine the gaps in global data that have caused significant blind spots on children’s education, and present solutions to the problem.

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Almost half of countries are not measuring children’s learning levels as they progress through school, meaning that 680 million children’s educational achievements have never been measured. Some regions suffer particularly large learning data gaps: 93% of children in Central and Southern Africa and 62% in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia have never had their reading skills assessed at the end of primary or secondary school since 2015.

Halfway to 2030, over half a billion children’s learning levels are unknown, and 40% of countries cannot report back to us on the qualification levels of their teachers. We need to find consensus around data collection so that we can bring these children into the big picture.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Data on government spending on education and out-of-school children is improving

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics is the official source of data on the fourth Sustainable Development Goal on Education, SDG 4, and has, in recent years, introduced new approaches and models to fill data gaps. These efforts have increased the share of countries reporting on governments’ education spending from 68% to 90%, and on out-of-school children from 62% to 98%. This innovative approach provided new numbers on children out-of-school in countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya that had not reported data for over a decade.

Two new tools will help reduce data gaps

UNESCO will present two new tools during the Conference, both designed by UIS, to reduce persistent data gaps and improve analysis for policy-making:

  • The LASER tool shows all existing data gaps by country against areas key for education progress.
  • The Assessment of Minimum Proficiency Level (AMPL) tool allows countries to fill the data gap on children’s learning levels, through 20 questions that can be easily integrated into countries’ existing cross-national and national assessments at a low cost and within a short time-frame. The tool has already been rolled out in seven countries in Africa and Asia that had previously not been able to report learning data to feed into SDG 4 monitoring.

The global Conference aims to establish a community of practice among countries’ education statisticians, to help reach agreement on concepts, definitions, and methodologies for monitoring progress towards SDG 4. Bringing together UN agencies, regional organizations, and political leaders, the conference will tackle the factors preventing the effective monitoring of education progress, and debate the use of technology for collecting data.

Launch of SDG4 scorecard

The second edition of UNESCO’s SDG 4 Scorecard will also be launched at the Conference, demonstrating why comparable education data is important. Produced by the UIS and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, the Scorecard shows that countries’ progress towards their national SDG 4 benchmarks is insufficient. If countries were on track to reach their 2025 benchmarks, 76% of children would be participating in early childhood education and 66% of students would be proficient in reading by the end of primary school. However, currently these figures stand at 69% and 58% respectively.

Have you read?

Identifying national benchmarks along with ministries has reinvigorated countries’ ownership of the monitoring of education, but also demonstrated the impact of missing data to assess progress. Blind spots appear for 47% of countries on reading levels at the end of primary, for 30% of countries on trained teachers at pre-primary and 19% on completion levels at the end of upper-secondary. In addition, 40% of countries are unable to report on the qualifications of their teachers.

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