The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is launching today, 3 December, the SDG 4 Data Digest 2018: Data to Nurture Learning, which demonstrates how data can contribute to improve learning, as ministers and policymakers gather at the Global Education Meeting in Brussels to take stock of progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on quality education for all .
Inequality in education is high on the agenda in Brussels but, as the UIS points out, it cannot be tackled without robust monitoring to track whether children, adolescents and adults are gaining the skills they need. This monitoring is vital, given that six out of ten children and adolescents worldwide are still unable to read a simple sentence or handle a basic mathematics calculation, according to UIS data.
“Inequality lies at the heart of the global learning crisis that stunts the lives of 617 million children and adolescents,” says Silvia Montoya, UIS Director. “Inequalities in learning are seen and felt not only at the individual level but across countries and communities, with entire societies held back by poor education and skills gaps.”
The Digest is blunt about the scale of the task ahead. One-third of the children and adolescents without basic literacy and numeracy skills are out of school and urgently need access to the education that is their right. But two-thirds of these children and adolescents are actually in school.
“Far from being hidden away or hard to reach, they are sitting in classrooms, in schools that are unable to provide them with the quality education they have been promised,” says Montoya. “That promise has been broken far too often.”
This matters, given the critical importance of learning for the achievement of all SDGs, from reducing poverty to tackling gender discrimination and building healthy, peaceful societies. The Digest voices concern about how these goals can be reached by the 2030 deadline if significant numbers of people continue to lack basic skills.
The Digest explores the internationally-comparable data needed to reduce inequalities and ensure the lifelong learning envisaged by SDG 4. It covers a wide range of assessment initiatives from early childhood education to adult literacy programmes. It also presents a series of tools to help countries make informed decisions about the types of assessments that will meet their specific needs, as well as guidance on participation in assessments and building the essential human capacity to improve learning outcomes through the effective use of data.
Making a strong case for investment in evaluation, the Digest argues for a shift in perspectives about the perceived costs of learning assessments by donors and governments. Participation in major international or regional assessments can cost each country roughly $500,000 every four years, which seems like a major expense for a smaller economy. However, it is minor when set against the overall cost of providing schooling, and the even greater economic consequences of inadequate education. The UIS estimates that solid data on learning to gauge whether approaches are working or whether reforms are needed could improve education spending efficiency by 5%, saving an average of $30 million per year in per country, which would pay for the cost assessments hundreds of times over.
For more information, contact Amy Otchet, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, firstname.lastname@example.org +1 514 343 7933
Infographics and social media materials are available here.