A Global Sharing Network to Strengthen Countries’ Education Data

By Luis Crouch, Senior Economist at the International Development Group (RTI International), and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

This blog was also published by Norrag.

No strategy – no matter how thorough – can succeed unless it is backed by good data that chart progress towards its objectives and meets the needs of its users, especially countries.

As a previous blog has noted, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) wants to ‘re-boot’ the education sector through data innovations that respond to demand, and we are pushing hard for a Global Strategy for Education Data. As part of that push, we have been making the case for greater investment in the data needed to chart progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education, publishing a blog and paper in the run-up to this week’s replenishment meeting of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), in Dakar, Senegal. The meeting aims to secure pledges from donors to secure the future education of no less than 870 million children.

With so much at stake, it is time to look more closely at the investment case for SDG 4 data, key ingredients for the Global Strategy for Education Data that is needed to support such ambitions. And in our view, Country Data Hubs should be part of the recipe by supporting multiple-sourced data integration and harmonisation based on international standards, while helping to improve data quality and reliability as well as reporting to the UIS for SDG monitoring.

The inspiration for Country Data Hubs comes from the success of the CountrySTAT programme run by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Global Sharing Network

The UIS has drafted a proposal for an education-focused version of edu2030/countrySTAT in the form of a Global Sharing Network that situates countries at the centre, managed by themselves and attending their needs. Easily accessible online, it would enable researchers, policymakers, development organizations and the private sector to design and implement better policies and reduce transaction costs and information gaps.

Right from the start, the Network will focus on the demand and needs of countries (at the national, regional and global levels) by taking an innovative and collaborative approach, using techniques such as design-based thinking and rapid prototyping. At each level, we will work with stakeholders to build on ideas through brainstorming and by testing solutions rapidly to gather feedback. 

These hubs will cover two broad areas. First, they will provide information on the situation of education data within the country, including such key elements as:

  • surveys and data collected (plus when and how);
  • indicators produced at the country level;
  • sub-national data; and
  • metadata and relevant policy information.

Second, they will set out the data position of the country in relation to international data, standards and related resources, such as:

  • metadata (including definitions and calculation methods) on the 43 global and thematic indicators;
  • standards such as the International Standard Classification of Education Data (ISCED);
  • model questionnaires and items that countries can use to collect education data, including data on learning outcomes;
  • quick guides on how to implement learning assessments, report on learning assessment data and use the results for SDG 4 policymaking; and
  • capacity development tools such as those set out in the recent SDG 4 Digest to improve data quality, such as templates to initiate national strategies for the development of education statistics.

There could be a whole range of benefits but, above all, this Global Data-Sharing Network could improve the dissemination of education data (with a special emphasis on SDG 4 data to monitor progress towards the global goals) and help countries take an evidence-based approach to decisionmaking.  

Promoting greater use of data while spurring more research

By publishing national and international data in one place, we can promote the greater use of data while increasing transparency and – at the same time – providing a much-needed spur for more research and greater investment in data.

The Global Sharing Network will also show the full range and diversity of data at the national level, which is a critical feature of the UIS strategic approach. For example, they could include the results of citizen-led learning assessments such as the work of the PAL Network, which spans 14 countries across Africa, Asia and Central America.

Donors would also benefit from the simplicity of this approach, as they could offer direct support to individual countries by investing in the development of their own portal in the Global Sharing Network.

We hope to generate a vibrant discussion of this approach at this week’s GPE replenishment meeting, seeing it as yet another strong argument in our case for far greater investment in education data. Watch this space for the results of this discussion!

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