Building peace in the minds of men and women

Mainstreaming SDG4 into national education policies, strategies and plans

UNESCO’s action on Education Policy strengthens the Organization’s functions as a laboratory of ideas, a standard setter, and a catalyst for international cooperation on the development of lifelong learning systems and policies. It contributes to coordinated work and delivery in education system strengthening, sector-wide education policy formulation and planning, as well as monitoring and evaluation of education system performance and challenges.

It further improves and strengthens backstopping for field offices to scale up UNESCO’s work in the areas of education policy review, sector analysis, education planning, sector financing and development coordination, especially in support of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) developing country partners. To this end, it develops and improves tools and hands-on guidelines to support sector planning, development coordination and monitoring and evaluation.

Strengthening national education systems to achieve SDG4

UNESCO helps strengthening national education systems to achieve SDG4 through knowledge generation and dissemination on key emerging system issues, including governance, leadership, management and financing, as well as through global repositories and platforms for mutual learning.

Supporting education policy reviews

UNESCO helps improving education policy formulation and planning through supporting education sector analyses, reviews and plan development, strengthening planning tools and guidelines, and providing policy options and strategies to strengthen the development and humanitarian nexus.

Reforms and policy analysis

The Education 2030 Framework for Action places great emphasis on quality, inclusiveness and equity. Access to education remains high up in the national agenda of many countries, but the targets for education in 2030 will require governments to maximize the use of existing policy levers for change.

Over the past two years, UNESCO has been closely monitoring three of these levers:

  • School leadership: Headteachers and those who have responsibility at an institutional level in schools are untapped potential which can be used to promote pedagogical change. However, in order to do so a new form of pedagogical leadership is needed.
  • Evaluation: The variables and factors that optimize learning cannot be simply derived from results. Promoting quality requires a full system-wide approach to monitoring and evaluation that goes beyond the mere qualification of student learning outcomes.
  • Governance: Governance must be reinforced as traditional governmental approaches to education face an increasing number of challenges ranging from privatization to internationalization.

The UNESCO International Symposium on Education Policies for 2030 took as its broad theme a discussion on which public policies can best help governments to reach higher levels of education quality through the use of governance, school leadership and monitoring and evaluation.

Developing evidence-based policies 

Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) and data

Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) are the tools that countries use to gather, process, and interpret data. EMIS have become an increasingly vital policy domain within the education sector, as they provide data to help countries understand the current status of the education system and their progress towards national and international development objectives. 

An effective EMIS helps to improve four distinct but interrelated educational processes:

  • management and administration;
  • educational planning;
  • policy formulation;
  • monitoring and evaluation.

To successfully make such improvements, governments need to augment their education system’s technical capacity, human resources, and institutional arrangements (e.g., policies and plans).

UNESCO provides technical assistance towards strengthening EMIS by helping Member States conduct diagnostic EMIS analyses to evaluate existing policies regarding the collection, analysis, and use of education data, and to build EMIS capacity. UNESCO further develops frameworks and documents to guide Member States in configuring their respective EMIS. Finally, UNESCO establishes and coordinates a community of practice for forward-looking EMIS that ensures continuity of teaching and learning, inclusion and equity in education, and the improvement of learning outcomes for all.

UNESCO also developed OpenEMIS to help Member States move towards evidence-informed decision-making. OpenEMIS is an open-source software, which gives governments full ownership of the system to configure it according to their needs and capacities.

Policy simulation and costing

Countries have used alternative policies and reform pathways to improve their education systems by boosting learning. However, results often fall short of expectations for many reasons. Chief among them is the lack of appropriately planned funding to ensure full implementation.

How do we ensure free pre-school education for all? What happens if we make lower secondary education compulsory? What happens if we raise teacher salaries to draw more qualified individuals to the teaching profession? How many students will the system have in the coming years? How many schools will we need to build? How many more teachers will we need to train?

These are some of the questions that must be addressed when a country develops its education sector plans (ESPs) articulating policies, programmes, and targets. ESPs must contain a section of planned actions alongside the strategy to finance them through domestic and external resources. Without such a planning exercise, countries face the risk of underfunding the ESPs which leads to incomplete implementation of policies and programmes.

To help countries estimate the resources associated with implementation of their ESPs, UNESCO developed the Education Policy & Strategy Simulation (EPSSim) model in 2001. Since then, EPSSim and its different versions have been used in dozens of countries around the world to support the development of ESPs and research on education policy and planning. The education policy environment has changed substantially since the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). To help countries meet SDG4, which targets educational equity and quality within a lifelong learning lens, UNESCO launched a new simulation model, Simulation for Education (SimuED). For more details on EPSSim and SimuED, see Education Policies and Planning Tools.

Education policies and planning tools

Explore the tools and hands-on guidelines developed by UNESCO to support sector planning, development coordination and monitoring and evaluation.