Measuring what matters most

An update on the GPE results framework

A boy and a girl learn to read in a primary school in Timor Leste. Credit: GPE/Tara E. O'Connell

On 25 September 2015, in New York, the United Nations Member States agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that embody the ambition of the international community on where we want to be, in terms of development, by 2030. SDG 4 on education purports to: “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”.

Such declarations are void, however, without firstly a set of plans to achieve these goals and, secondly, a way of knowing whether we are on track and will eventually have achieved them.

GPE’s results framework, probably the most comprehensive such framework that exists, is unique in this regard because – directly or indirectly – it helps do both these things.

On devising a way forward to achieving SDG 4, the results framework is built on, and directly related to, a theory of change that effectively sets outs how we can achieve what it is that we want to achieve.

Based on an extensive body of knowledge, this theory of change is the foundation of our strategy, GPE 2020, and says that we can achieve our Goal if we mobilize finance and build partnerships on the global level, and lock together policy dialogue and coordination, sector planning, effective use of finance, and data generation and use at the country level.

But GPE’s results framework, and its indicators, does not only test whether our assumptions on how we can improve education systems in some of the world’s most disadvantaged countries works, and how it works under different circumstances - it will also monitor whether education, as a whole, is progressing in the world’s poorest countries, which has monumental implications for the world that we all share.

Results are the responsibility of all partners

What also makes it important is that it puts into practice the GPE principle of mutual accountability: as the international community agreed, through SDG 4, that no child should miss out on education, it also says that we are all, together, responsible for achieving this. The results framework assesses, among other things, whether we are living up to that shared responsibility.

For example, it assesses whether the GPE Secretariat implements the activities it says it will; but also whether donors step forward to finance SDG 4; whether countries match that with sufficient domestic finance for education; whether bilateral and multilateral agencies, as grant agents, implement grants efficiently; and, finally, for example, whether civil society organizations and teacher unions are included in local education groups.

All of these points are captured in the 37 indicators, from the fundamental conviction that all these actors play key roles in achieving SDG 4. And only if they – that is to say, if we – work in unison, can we achieve this both ambitious and critical international development goal, which is itself central to achieving the overall SDG agenda.

While the results framework’s key indicators were approved by the GPE Board of Directors in its June meeting, the full results framework with milestones and targets was approved in October this year. This means that the full set of 37 indicators is now operational, and will be reported on going forward starting with the 2016 report to be published next year.

The results framework will paint a detailed picture of education in partner countries

So what does the framework measure? Just to give a few examples, we can now report on advocacy initiatives undertaken with partners and other external agencies to support the achievement of GPE strategic goals and objectives (indicator 34), which is important to assess what the Secretariat is doing to support the partnership’s campaign for education in gaining, and maintaining momentum.

We can now report on the proportion of GPE donors increasing or maintaining their funding for education (indicator 28). We can report on the proportion of grants on track to achieving their outcomes (indicator 25), on the proportion of countries with quality learning assessment systems (indicator 15) and on gender parity indices of completion rates across GPE partner countries (indicator 5).

All of these data are necessary to give a rounded picture on where we stand, and what still needs to happen, to make sure we achieve SDG 4 by 2030. In this context, it is important to emphasize that the glue that ties these indicators together is the theory of change – thus all indicators relate to each other, and all are important, not only to have a holistic overview of progress on education development, but also to understand where bottlenecks in the delivery chain might be.

We have the firm conviction that the willingness of all our partners to stand up and be counted, and to be accountable for making quality education for all a success, will be an investment not just to the benefit of millions of children, their families and societies in partner countries, but for all of us – worldwide.


Moritz Bilagher is Head of Monitoring and Evaluation at the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), in charge of its M&E strategy, including its results framework, containing learning indicators. Before...

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