Data users the world over have a unique opportunity to show their support for SDG 4 Indicator 4.1.1: the proportion of children and young people achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics.
A new public consultation by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs) seeks the views of stakeholders on proposals to replace, revise or delete existing indicators as part of an intensive review process of the global SDG indicator framework. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in July 2017, the framework was developed by the IAEG-SDGs, with substantial input on the education-related indicators from the Education 2030 process coordinated by UNESCO.
In relation to SDG 4, the current consultation seeks feedback on a proposal to replace Indicator 4.1.1 by Indicator 4.6.1: the proportion of the population in a given age group achieving at least a minimum level of proficiency in (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills.
It is our hope that stakeholders will respond – in strength and numbers – to safeguard Indicator 4.1.1, which examines progress on these vital skills at different points of a child’s schooling. In our view, if you had to pick just one indicator for global monitoring of education, you would choose Indicator 4.1.1 because it encapsulates the entire schooling and learning process.
Indicator 4.1.1 matters because it contributes to SDG 4 Target 4.1, which aims for all children to complete primary and secondary education and attain relevant and effective learning outcomes. It matters because it determines whether education systems are fit for purpose in delivering the skills needed to ensure lifelong learning for all – the overarching ambition of SDG 4.
Making the best use of the best data available
Campaigners have fought hard to ensure that children don’t just start school but complete a full cycle of primary and secondary education and learn what they need to know at each stage of their education.
That is why Indicator 4.1.1 is curriculum-based – it measures the extent to which children are acquiring the vital skills in reading and mathematics defined by their own countries at critical points in their education. By using existing data that countries rely on for policymaking, Indicator 4.1.1 is pragmatic, informative and represents an effective use of scarce resources, especially for middle- and low-income countries. That is one of the many reasons why it has been validated – and is being pursued – by so many countries.
The momentum towards Indicator 4.1.1 is booming. Just five years ago, we had little or no data available internationally. Today, about 150 countries are reporting data on learning -- a number expected to rise in September with the new data release from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). This growing range of available data may increase still further as more countries assess learning – not just for monitoring but for their own policymaking.
At the same time, a wide range of partners and countries have joined forces through the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) to develop the standards and tools to link data and produce internationally comparable indicators on learning.
Never has the international education data community achieved so much in such a short time thanks to the support of a wide range of partners, such as the Australian Council for Education Research, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, the World Bank, as well as donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development and others.
Thanks to this collective action, the IAEG-SDG decided to upgrade Indicator 4.1.1 from a Tier 3 to a Tier 2 indicator. We are now preparing to make the next great leap forward. In response to an IAEG-SDG request, the UIS has submitted a proposal to include completion rates for primary and secondary education as part of the global indicator framework.
In addition, the UIS is preparing to release new estimates of children not learning in September, which will encompass the concepts of completion and learning and thereby support efforts to achieve SDG 4.