Meet the SDG 4 data: Indicators on school conditions, scholarships and teachers
Learn more about SDG 4 indicators 4.a.1, 4.b.1 and 4.c.1
September 12, 2018 by Silvia Montoya, UNESCO Institute for Statistics|
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Teacher and Headmaster Ballaaf Ould Salem Vall, religious studies and civics teacher at College Riyad 5, Tarhil, Nouakchott, Mauritania.
CREDIT: GPE/Kelley Lynch

The blogs in this series have examined the indicators that measure progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), from learning outcomes to education that promotes sustainable development.

In this final blog, we focus on three indicators that are key to ensure a quality education for all. First, the availability of schools where children can learn in safe conditions. Second, the availability of scholarships for students from developing countries. Third – and very importantly – the availability of trained teachers.

Let’s begin with target 4.a on the school environment: build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

Indicator 4.a.1 examines the proportion of schools with access to: (a) electricity; (b) the Internet; (c) computers; (d) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities; (e) basic drinking water; (f) single-sex basic sanitation facilities; and (g) basic handwashing facilities (in line with SDG 6 on water, sanitation and hygiene).

This indicator assesses some of the most basic services and facilities that need to be in place for schools to be child-friendly, inclusive, nurturing and safe – schools where children have a good chance of learning.

As noted in my blog on indicator 4.4.1 on skills for a digital world, our growing reliance on digital technologies carries a risk: those who lack access to such technologies and the skills to make the best use of them are in danger of being sidelined. The same is true for schools that lack such technologies – they will struggle to compete with those that do, only adding to the digital divide.

This indicator also has close links to indicator 4.5.1, which stresses the need for disaggregated data on disability – in addition to other personal and household characteristics – as a way to ensure that progress on education is equitable and inclusive.

  • Definition: the percentage of schools by level of education with access to the given facility or service (defined in line with the Metadata for global and thematic indicators for the follow-up and review of SDG 4 and Education 2030).
  • Calculation method: the number of schools at a given level of education with access to the relevant facilities, expressed as a percentage of all schools at that level.
  • Interpretation: a high value indicates that schools have good access to the relevant services and facilities.
  • Data sources: administrative data from schools and other providers of education or training.
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Measuring scholarships

Next we examine target 4.b on scholarships: By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrollment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programs, in developed countries and other developing countries.

We focus on indicator 4.b.1, which reflects the volume of official development assistance flows for scholarships by sector and type of study.

At first glance, a focus on scholarships for higher education overseas may seem a little elitist. Surely the emphasis should be on ensuring every child has a good basic education in their own country?

In our view, this is not an ‘either/or’ scenario. The ultimate goal is lifelong learning, including robust early childhood development and pre-schooling, primary and secondary education and higher education – whether that higher education is in a student’s home country or elsewhere. The aim here is to ensure that talented students, particularly those from disadvantaged communities and groups, have an equitable chance of a higher education.

As discussed in the blog on indicator 4.3.1 on quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, far too many young people worldwide are ‘NEETs’: not in education, employment or training.

Scholarships that help young people reach their full potential can be truly transformative, not only for the young people themselves but for their societies.

  • Definition: gross disbursement of total net official development assistance (ODA) for scholarships in donor countries expressed in US dollars at the average annual exchange rate.
  • Calculation method: the sum of gross disbursements of total ODA for scholarships for study abroad by sector and type of study awarded to students from the beneficiary country expressed in US dollars.
  • Interpretation: a high value indicates that there is greater expenditure on students from the given beneficiary country to study abroad. It does not indicate the number of students being supported.
  • Data sources: administrative data from donor countries and other aid providers on gross disbursements of total ODA to education. Data are compiled by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD from returns submitted by its member countries and other aid providers.

Counting trained teachers

Finally, we examine target 4.c on teachers: By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States.

Indicator 4.c.1 focuses on the proportion of teachers in: (a) pre-primary education; (b) primary education; (c) lower secondary education; and (d) upper secondary education who have received at least the minimum organized teacher training (e.g. pedagogical training) pre-service or in-service required for teaching at the relevant level in a given country, by sex.

This is an indicator that should be near the top of the urgent ‘to do’ list for the achievement of SDG 4.

Definition: the percentage of teachers by level of education (pre-primary, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education) who have received at least the minimum organized pedagogical teacher training pre-service and in-service required for teaching at the relevant level in a given country. Ideally, the indicator should be calculated separately for public and private institutions.

  • Calculation method: the number of teachers in a given level of education who are trained is expressed as a percentage of all teachers in that level of education.
  • Interpretation: a high value indicates that students are being taught by teachers who are pedagogically well-trained to teach.
  • Data sources: administrative data from schools and other organized learning centers.

There can be no better place to end this series on the SDG 4 indicators. Because, after all, education systems are only as good as the teachers who deliver education. Ultimately, education is about teachers engaging with and empowering their students and in order to succeed teachers need to be equipped with skills and knowledge that they can apply in the classroom to help their students thrive.

What the world needs to keep its promise on education

If the world keeps its promises on education, the teacher in 2030 will be well-trained and working in a school that is equipped to provide a 21st century education of high quality. If the world keeps its promises on education, each of their students will have access to education, arrive at school ready to learn in a safe and inclusive environment, with an equitable chance of learning regardless of their background, gender or disability. If the world keeps its promises on education, children will stay in school and complete their education, and both teachers and students will play a pivotal role in building safe classrooms and more peaceful, productive and sustainable societies.

The UIS is keeping its promise to track progress, alongside national governments, UN partners and others. By harnessing the power of data, as shown in this blog series, we can track whether the world is keeping its education promises to children and young people. 

Where and how to find SDG 4 data

  • The Quick Guide to Education Indicators for SDG 4 describes the process of developing and producing the global monitoring indicators while explaining how they can be interpreted and used. This is a hands-on, step-by-step guide for anyone who is working on gathering or analysing education data.
  • The SDG 4 Data Book: Global Education Indicators 2018 ensures that readers have the latest available data for the global monitoring indicators at their fingertips, and will be regularly updated.
  • The SDG 4 Data Explorer displays data by country, region or year; by data source; and by sex, location and wealth. It allows users to explore the measures of equality that are crucial for the achievement of SDG 4.
  • The SDG 4 Country Profiles present the latest available SDG 4 global indicators in charts and graphs that are easy to understand. For those who need quick facts on specific countries, this is the place to come.
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