Finding out how many youths pursue technical or tertiary education
Indicator 4.3.1 is defined as: the participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex.
This global target covers several different concepts. While indicator 4.3.1 does not measure such concepts as affordability and quality directly, the crucial concept of ‘equal access’ – the equity principle that underpins all of the SDGs – is assessed through the comparison of participation rates by sex.
The indicator is calculated as the percentage of youth and adults in a given age range (e.g. 15 to 24 years, 25 to 64 years, etc.) who participate in formal or non-formal education or training during a given time period – preferably the previous 12 months. Ideally, the indicator should be disaggregated by the type of program, including technical and vocational education and training (TVET), tertiary education and adult education, among others. It should cover formal programs and also the non-formal programs that are so often ‘under the radar’ of measurement and that may attract untold numbers of people in search of marketable skills.
The measurement challenge is how best to capture the full span of programs – whether formal or non-formal. Both formal and non-formal education and training are on offer across a whole range of settings, including not only schools and universities but also workplaces, community centers, religious settings, refugee camps and many other places. Education and training programs may run for a few years or for just a few hours.
Administrative data may only cover formal settings, such as schools and universities. It is possible to apply the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) to such setting, and this has become the standard framework used to categorize and report on cross-nationally-comparable education statistics. As a result of ISCED 2011, most countries now have a sound and well-established methodology to calculate participation in formal education. However, we face a serious challenge when it comes to the measurement of participation in non-formal education and training, with methodologies varying substantially worldwide.
While capturing participation rates of any kind is of value in itself, it is important to remember that it will not tell us anything about the quality or intensity of the education and training on offer, or about their results.
There are data sources in place to support indicator 4.3.1 at international and national levels. At the international level, surveys like the European Adult Education Survey (AES), the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) and the ILO School-to-Work Transition Survey (SWTS) generate periodic and comparable information. At national level, the National Household Surveys and Labor Force Surveys usually collect data on participation in formal and non-formal education programs, but data-gathering on the latter tends to be more sporadic.
Using household surveys to collect data on non-formal programs
To improve the availability of data for indicator 4.3.1, the Working Group on Indicator Development of the Technical Cooperation Group on the indicators for SDG 4–Education 2030 (TCG), which is coordinated by the UIS, has developed a proposed set of questions for use in household surveys. These questions – which collect data on participation in formal and non-formal education, including technical or vocational programs and literacy programs – will be submitted for approval by the TCG at its next meeting at the end of 2018.
Young people are the world’s most dynamic and potentially productive resource. Having monitored their progress through education, we cannot afford to lose sight of them just as they approach a critical milestone in their journey – the transition from education to the workplace. Because a successful transition for them means more prosperous and secure societies for us all.