Statement on the downgrade of SDG 4.1.1a to a Tier 2 indicator

The Global Coalition for Foundational Learning is concerned by the downgrading of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.1.1a indicator, the proportion of children and young people in grades 2/3 achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics, from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 indicator.

The SDG 4.1.1a indicator plays a critical role in advancing the global commitment to improve the attainment of foundational skills —the ability to read, write and do basic mathematics —that children need to succeed in education. The early grade focus of SDG 4.1.1a, when coupled with SDG 4.1.1b and SDG 4.1.1c, enables stakeholders to track progress and understand how children are gaining foundational learning skills as they advance through the education cycle.

To return SDG 4.1.1a to a Tier 1 indicator, minimum reporting coverage must be achieved by 2025. If minimum coverage is not met , then the indicator is at risk of being removed from the global indicator framework for the SDGs as the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) plans to eliminate all Tier 2 indicators in 2025. Losing SDG 4.1.1a would signify that focusing on foundational learning skills in the early grades is no longer a priority in global education monitoring. Without a globally recognized and supported indicator such as 4.1.1a, it will be challenging to assess progress and take unified action where needed to ensure that all learners, especially those who are behind, gain the skills they need to advance in school and in life.

The good news is that countries already collect and have a wealth of data on foundational literacy and numeracy. The global education community, led by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, has agreed on global proficiency standards that can be utilized to expand the coverage and increase reporting, which will strengthen the case for SDG 4.1.1a to remain a Tier 1 indicator in the SDG framework.

In addition to national assessments, the global education community has invested in the development and improvement of several tools with different methodologies in recent years, including the Assessments for Minimum Proficiency Levels (AMPLs), International Common Assessment of Numeracy (ICAN), International Common Assessment of Reading (ICARe), MICS-Foundational Learning Module (FLM) and the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA). These assessments could be used to increase SDG 4.1.1a reporting, if the methodologies meet the established criteria.

We believe significant progress can be achieved in the coming year on expanding coverage of SDG 4.1.1a if all stakeholders agree to make best use of the existing and forthcoming iterations of the tools that comply with the standards set by the custodian agency.

As a Coalition:We call on the participants of the December Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) meeting to work together to enable SDG 4.1.1a to be recategorized as Tier 1 indicator. In doing so, we request participants in GAML, under the leadership of UIS, to clearly lay out the criteria to achieve two objectives: first, to delineate rigorous and pragmatic criteria for future use of existing tools, and second, agree on methodological approaches for effective utilisation of the existing stock of assessments. An inclusive, nuanced and pragmatic approach to use these tools to report on 4.1.1 a is the only viable pathway to achieve significant coverage and sustain the global emphasis on tracking and monitoring progress on foundational learning skills in the early grades.

We commit to work in coordination to improve these approaches in the coming year to enable more countries to report in 2024.

Signed by:

  • Alicia Herbert, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, United Kingdom
  • Robert Jenkins, Global Director, Education and Adolescent Development, UNICEF
  • Stefania Gianini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
  • Allyson Wainer, Director of the Center for Education, USAID
  • Benjamin Piper, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Luis Benveniste, Global Director for Education, The World Bank
  • Jo Bourne, Chief Technical Officer, Global Partnership for Education

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