Developing new ways of measuring educational results – a key to success

Millions of children around the world are still unable to read or write, whether they have been to school or not, raising questions about the availability but also the quality of education provided. What children are learning, and if they are learning at all once they make it to school, is now a big concern among education stakeholders. Evidence of learning is important for all stakeholders, learners, parents, teachers, policy-makers, donors and others. Reliable education measures are therefore needed to track progress, guide and improve decision-making. Without quality data there is a risk of misuse of resources which could subject education systems to vested interests, creating space for manipulation and mismanagement for the benefit of some and the exclusion of others.

Global Citizenship Education  (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) are proposed as targets of the education goal in the post-2015 development agenda, in recognition of their potential to encourage sustainable development and create peaceful societies.

Having GCED and ESD central to the development agenda would mean that millions of children around the world would benefit from values, knowledge, skills attitudes and behaviours which are based on and instil respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, gender equality and environmental sustainability. These values promote collective well-being and peaceful coexistence, and, empower learners to be proactive responsible global citizens. If GCED and ESD are to be included as targets in the post-2015 agenda, providing evidence of their impact will become necessary.

The wide-ranging concepts and expected learning outcomes entailed in GCED and ESD as well as their non-traditional approaches to education can make it difficult to measure them.   But is still feasible. In fact, elements of GCED and ESD are already covered in existing surveys (e.g. OECD/PISA, IEA/ICCS, WVS ).

To tackle the issue of measurability of GCED and ESD, UNESCO established a Measurement Ad-Hoc Team (MAT) with experts on measurement within and outside of UNESCO. The MAT met in June 2014 in Paris as a sub-group of the UNESCO Experts Advisory Group (EAG) on GCED, the task of which was to review the UNESCO Guiding Framework on GCED and identify priorities for measurement. The MAT experts discussed the conceptual dimensions of GCED and ESD and considered the four priority areas identified by the EAG, together with possible approaches for measurement and data collection options, based on existing and forthcoming surveys. The four priority areas are listed below

  • Have learners have acquired knowledge, understanding and critical thinking about global issues and the interconnectedness/interdependency of countries and different populations;
  •  Do learners have a sense of belonging to a common humanity, sharing values and responsibilities and holding rights;
  • Do learners show empathy, solidarity and respect for differences and diversity;
  •  Can learners act effectively and responsibly at local, national and global contexts for a more peaceful and sustainable world.

These four priority areas  can provide the basis for formulating  key competencies and setting up the goals and objectives of GCED and ESD.

The outcomes of the EAG and MAT meetings were shared with the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the EFA Steering Committee when, which is responsible for recommending indicators for the post-2015 education goal and targets. The TAG has identified four potential indicators from existing surveys and will soon launch a consultation process in an effort to reach consensus on the final list of indicators.  

Similar work is also undertaken by the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF). Organizations administering global or regional surveys (e.g. IEA and OECD) are also considering expanding the coverage of their studies so that they too can better  capture  the multi-dimensions of GCED and ESD.

UNESCO will continue to collaborate with the TAG and other relevant stakeholders to support the inclusion of both GCED and ESD in the post-2015 development agenda, by helping to build the case for their measurability and come up with the a reliable measurement framework.