New initiative to improve the coordination, production and use of SDG 4 data    

Without a rapid shift from “business as usual”, one in six children aged 6-17 will still be out of school in 2030 while just six in ten youth will be completing secondary education. Moreover, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of education on offer. Worldwide 55% of children and adolescents of lower secondary school age are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and 60% are reaching these levels in math, according to estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

While the global and regional numbers show the urgent need for action, policy makers in many countries are working in the dark. Many national statistical offices and education ministries still struggle to produce and report data on the basics – from the number of girls who never set foot in a classroom to the number of schools with clean drinking water. Using the most conservative calculations, the UIS has estimated that better education data would generate a 10% gain in education efficiency.

There is currently no central mechanism or strategy to help countries produce data for the Sustainable Development Goal on education (SDG 4). Countries are struggling to make the greatest possible use of different data sources currently available while developing additional sources needed to produce the indicators. Donors do not have a clear understanding of the data needs of countries, which can lead to fragmented support.

Aligning data needs to resources

In response, the UIS is seeking to build the Global Coalition for Education Data. By bringing together front-line countries with donors, the Coalition will align financial and technical resources available at the country and international levels while coordinating public-private partnerships at reasonable costs. The aim is to reduce the duplication of efforts, improve the accountability of statistical capacity building, ensure efficient investment of existing resources and improve the functioning and use of country-owned education information systems.  

As custodian agency for SDG 4 indicators, the UIS is uniquely positioned to serve as broker and coordinator between countries and donors. By working with national statistical offices and education ministries around the world, the Institute understands the needs of countries and can therefore help guide donors to ensure that their investments have maximum effect.

The Coalition will aim to:

  • Identify the data demands of countries and their statistical capacity development needs for effective policymaking and reporting;
  • Help donors better understand the links between their programmes and country needs;
  • Serve as a clearinghouse for information such as: guidelines for investment, technical guidelines for implementation, dashboard on data production for each SDG indicator; and
  • Foster country demand and political will to produce and use the data needed to monitor and achieve SDG 4.

Green light from the UN Statistical Commission and multilateral education partners

The UN Statistical Commission, the highest body of the global statistical system, clearly recognized UIS leadership and its ‘brokerage’ role while meeting in March 2019. The Commission commended the UIS on the actions taken to improve data availability and develop methodologies, guidelines and other supporting tools to produce indicators for the follow-up and review of SDG 4.  It also supported the extension of the UIS mandate to serve as a broker between countries and development partners to improve the production and use of high quality education data at all levels.

The Coalition was also endorsed during the second meeting of the Principals of Global Multilateral Education Partners, which took place in September in New York during the United Nations General Assembly. The directors and high-level representatives of multilateral organizations, funds and agencies working on education globally clearly recognized the UIS brokerage role in building the Coalition.