The lack of accurate and timely education data is a problem in many of the countries that the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) supports. Gathering these data is complex and resource-intensive, but without it education authorities and their partners will struggle to design, implement, and monitor the targeted interventions that are needed to deliver results.
Without adequate and timely data, implementation of an education sector plan can be a bit like shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the bullseye.
GPE recognizes the data problem needs to be tackled decisively if the efforts of our partner countries, and the support we provide to them, are to make a real difference.
The critical data that we need to know include not only how many children go to school and how many do not and why, but also how many teachers are available, and how many hours of instruction children get; test scores need to be gathered and the results correlated to instructional practices.
The range and depth of the data that are needed are enormous. And data are not only needed at the operational level but also to inform future interventions and reforms to strengthen education systems.
Strong commitment from private sector partners
To highlight the data challenge and seek ways to tackle it, GPE launched in February the Education Data Solutions Roundtable to bring together partner countries (Liberia, Ethiopia, Gambia, Nepal, the DRC and Cambodia), multilateral organizations, charitable foundations, north and south-based civil society, and the business community, including representatives of the world’s top computer software, financial and business service companies.
This group met again in New York last month on the margins of the UN General Assembly for a deeper look at the data challenge and how to co-opt the expertise of the private sector.
Why the private sector? Governments in many GPE partner countries are energetically trying to attract greater private sector participation in social and economic development so that these efforts benefit from the efficiency, expertise and technological innovation that the private sector can bring. These very qualities are needed to overcome the data problem.
The response from members of the business community to the education data challenge was heartening. In New York, six companies with vast experience in gathering and handling data—Econet, HP Inc., Intel, Mastercard, Microsoft and Tableau—made a commitment to: