Meet the SDG 4 data: Promoting sustainable development

SDG 4 indicator 4.7.1 reflects the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

September 05, 2018 by Silvia Montoya, UNESCO Institute for Statistics
5 minutes read
Children at Busabala Primary School in Uganda. Credit: GPE/Chantal Rigaud
Children at Busabala Primary School in Uganda.
Credit: GPE/Chantal Rigaud

So far, this series of blogs on the data needed to monitor progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education has focused predominantly on indicators that explore educational outcomes and achievements for individuals, and the components that must be in place to ensure a quality education for all.  But when we come to Target 7, we see a marked shift in perspective.

Target 7 takes a sweeping look at education and the wider world: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

This blog zooms in on indicator 4.7.1: the extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed at all levels in: (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessments.

Measuring political will and resources

The concepts to be measured in relation to 4.7.1 include the level of national commitment towards the attainment of target 4.7, such as the presence of political will and resources for concrete policies, curricula and assessment on global citizenship education and education for sustainable development. The indicator can be complemented by other indicators on these areas that assess learning outcomes through a more directly cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioral lens than we have seen for many other indicators.

  • Global citizenship education (GCED) nurtures respect for all, building a sense of belonging to one common humanity and helping learners become responsible and active global citizens. GCED aims to empower individuals to take an active role in confronting and resolving global challenges and to play their part in the creation of a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world.
  • Education for sustainable development (ESD) empowers learners to take informed decisions and act responsibly to safeguard environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity. It is about lifelong learning and is an integral part of quality education.

Indicator 4.7.1 is defined as measuring the quantity and quality of country inputs, as well as whether the quality of GCED and ESD provision is good enough to be transformational. Thus, the indicator goes beyond the mere ‘existence’ or ‘mention’ of GCED and ESD in policy, curricula, teacher education and student assessment.

The data source for this indicator is a questionnaire that is sent to 195 UNESCO Member States every four years to monitor the implementation of the 1974 Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Cooperation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This mechanism covers almost all aspects of the indicator. UNESCO analyses the survey results and reports to its General Conference on each country’s status. In 2016, UNESCO revised the survey tool to make it more relevant and easy to use, which will increase the response rate.

Countries’ responses to the UNESCO questionnaire are used to calculate the four components of indicator 4.7.1: (a) national education policy, (b) curricula, (c) teacher education and (d) student assessment. The curricula component is sub-divided into two sub-components: (i) curricular content and (ii) curricula resources. Results are reported for each component or sub-component separately but are not combined into an overall score on the grounds that strong progress in one component does not compensate for weak progress in another. Analyzing each component separately is more useful and informative in identifying the areas in which more efforts are required.

Progress on this particular indicator might be interpreted in relation to the priority and emphasis assigned to the areas covered by indicator 4.7.1 over time, i.e. if and how GCED and ESD exist, and changes in their frequency, priority and scope of implementation from one round of data collection to the next.

In addition, guiding principles on sources, data collection approaches and experiences on this topic can be drawn from the global monitoring and evaluation work conducted as part of the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014). Other human rights monitoring frameworks, education sector reviews or thematic studies can act as additional data sources.

Equipping children to build a better world

There are, however, some methodological challenges. The indicator does not show whether national measures lead to desired changes in learning outcomes and does not assess learning outcomes directly. However, education policies, curricula, teacher education and student assessment are key intermediate outcomes of national commitment and effort to effectively implement GCED and ESD and to provide a conducive learning environment.

In some ways, indicator 4.7.1 is an outlier. By looking outward to the world beyond the classroom, it explores how the world’s children and youth can be equipped to help the world itself. By focusing on how their education can help to build a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, this indicator captures the wider purpose of a quality education for entire societies, as well as the individual. 

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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Thanks for the brief. It's fantastic.

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