How to measure educational advances through to 2030? UNESCO study surveys available information in Latin America and the Caribbean

16 October 2016


© UNESCO Santiago

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) released the results of a study on the availability of information for calculating the indicators to be used to monitor Sustainable Development Goal 4 (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”) in 29 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The digest was prepared by analyzing the information available for generating 43 thematic indicators [1] that gauge progress in countries towards more inclusive and equitable education, with more opportunities for the population as a whole.

The document’s most significant findings include the observation that the countries have a broad-ranging capacity to calculate indicators on participation and completion of education levels, and to assess learning outcomes, teacher training, and school resources-elements that are part of the region’s educational information systems.

However, when it comes to indicators that measure specific learning outcomes linked to sustainable development, such as the measurement of literacy skills and indicators that require systematised information on higher education grants, development is still in the early stages.

There are certain nuances in the availability of this information between subregions. On average, the study found that countries in the Caribbean have less information availability and their figures are less frequently updated compared to the statistics produced in Latin American countries.

On data updating and disaggregation

The new agenda’s emphasis on promoting equity in education creates a need for the indicators produced to be disaggregated by key variables usually associated with conditions of inequality. The findings show that disaggregation is most commonly possible for the SDG 4 variable “sex” (89%), followed by “location” (59%) and “age” (57%). The possibility of breaking the indicators down is far lower for variables such as “wealth” (23%) and “disability status” (11%).

The study also found that 87% of countries in the region update relevant information for calculating SDG 4 indicators on an annual basis.


In some areas, countries feature good availability of data for computing the SDG 4 monitoring indicators, mainly where information systems exist based on administrative records, school censuses and, more recently, standardized learning outcome assessments. This also allows certain indicators to be calculated and updated frequently. Meanwhile, competency assessments for young people and adults in areas such as literacy, basic arithmetic and digital skills have seen little development in the region, and these are some of the areas in which more support is needed.

Why is this study important?

The relevance of this publication is explained by Juan Cruz Perusia, UIS regional advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean: “Finding out how well the world’s regions and countries are prepared to generate indicators on the achievement of the education goals proposed for countries through the year 2030 is the first step in determining the areas where the greatest investments are required to strengthen countries’ capacities to produce statistics”.

Juan Cruz Perusia adds: “The challenges imposed on national statistical systems by the new agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are enormous, and this type of survey is useful for UNESCO and other international bodies to develop methodologies and to support education ministries and national institutes of statistics in Latin America and the Caribbean in producing quality educational data for use in informed decision making processes”.

More information:

[1] Indicators proposed by the Technical Advisory Group: UNESCO (2015) Thematic Indicators to Monitor the Education 2030 Agenda: Technical Advisory Group Proposal