The UNESCO Institute for Statistics will be a central partner of a major new initiative launched by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to help developing countries strengthen their collection, management and use of education data.  

Entitled the Education Data Solutions Roundtable, the new public-private initiative recognizes that the business community, in partnership with other stakeholders in development, can offer innovative solutions, creative thinking and new technology that will drive improvements at community, regional, national and ultimately global levels. The initiative is part of the GPE’s knowledge and exchange work.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) will play a key role in the new initiative as the official data source for SDG 4 and the primary UN repository for cross-nationally comparable statistics on education in more than 200 countries and territories. The Institute will join between 15-20 high-level representatives from the private sector, international organizations, developing country governments and other GPE partners. The Roundtable will serve as an advisory body to GPE on education data.

In the run-up to the announcement, the UIS has worked closely with the GPE to make the case for greater investment in education data to better support countries in their efforts to achieve SDG 4. Drawing on the success of the global health and agriculture sectors, the UIS has developed a series of strategies and proposals to help transform the education sector through data.

Global Strategy for Education Statistics

Currently, the global coverage rates for SDG 4 indicators is just 36% for all regions. In response, the UIS has developed a new 12-year Global Strategy for Education Data (GSED) to help countries strengthen their national statistical systems. Key components include:

  • tools and platforms to report data, calculate indicators and assess quality and procedures to strengthen education statistical systems;
  • national systems for easy access and dissemination of national and sub-national data;
  • a living database, including research projects, best practices and a roster of experts;
  • innovative and cost-effective methods for data collection, analysis, and presentation, including for populations in emergencies.

How much will it cost?

According to a new UIS paper, it would cost about US$1.4 million per year on average per country to produce all of the SDG 4 indicators for an overall investment of $280 million per year for the whole world.  While this average varies according to the income level of the country, the costs pale in comparison to the benefits of providing quality education for all.

According to UIS data, the median country spends US$1.4 billion dollars a year on its education system from pre-primary to secondary schooling. Studies have shown that the inefficiency levels in education systems tend to range from 10% to as high as 30% – with students repeating grades, for example, leaving school early.

In a conservative scenario, better data would lead to a 10% gain in efficiency. So while the average low-income country would need to invest about US$1.7million per year on education data, it could save US$36 million a year in the running costs of its education system. The investment costs, at US$2.4 million per year, are higher for a middle-income country, but the potential savings would reach US$101 million.

Global Data-Sharing Network

Inspired by the success of the CountrySTAT programme run by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UIS has  developed a proposal for a Global Sharing Network of country data hubs of national and international education data, standards, metadata, surveys and tools to improve data quality. Easily accessible online, it would enable policymakers, development organizations, researchers and the private sector to design and implement better policies and reduce transaction costs and information gaps.

The Network will cover two broad areas: the education data situation in countries as well as the standards, indicators and capacity-building resources needed to improve the international reporting and quality of SDG 4 data.