We have been ringing alarm bells about the global learning crisis for some time, with 617 million children and adolescents worldwide unable to read a simple sentence or handle a basic mathematics calculation. This year’s SDG 4 Data Digest: Data to Nurture Learning from the UIS turns up the volume, making the case for data to monitor lifelong learning.
The Digest is the go-to source for information on how to gather data on learning outcomes and – above all – how to use the information to improve those outcomes, showcasing proven and promising approaches. This is where data have real power: showing us the challenges and kick-starting the changes needed to ensure lifelong learning.
Data to tackle the global learning crisis
The Digest is blunt about the scale of the task ahead. One-third of the children and adolescents who are not acquiring basic literacy or numeracy skills are out of school, and each and every one of them needs access to the education that is their right. But two-thirds of them are actually in school.
Far from being hidden away or hard to reach, they are sitting right there, right now, in the world’s classrooms, waiting for their education systems to deliver the quality education they have been promised. That promise has been broken far too often, as shown by the dismal lack of progress on learning outcomes over the past 15 years. It is perhaps no surprise then to discover that the greatest educational equity gaps are found in learning outcomes.
This matters, given the critical importance of learning for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from reducing poverty to tackling gender discrimination, and from ending hunger to building healthy, peaceful societies.
How can these goals be reached by the 2030 deadline if significant numbers of people continue to lack the most basic skills? And how can we track progress on learning when current cross-national and regional assessments are not fully comparable? At present, 80% of countries are assessing learning but the results cannot be compared.