Proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex


SDG Indicator 4.1.1: Percentage of children in primary education and at the end of secondary education reaching at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics.

While many countries already collect data on basic competencies, the data are rarely comparable. The standards for reading proficiency for a child in Japan at the end of primary education may be quite different from what is expected of a child in France . The purpose of common measures of learning is not to erase such differences, which may be based on cultural context, but to create a scaffold, or framework, for each learning domain, based on agreed learning outcomes at each of the points of measurement.

Data source

• International assessments (Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Programme for International Student Assessment for Development (PISA-D), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS));
• Regional assessments (El Laboratorio Latino americano de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación (LLECE), Programme d’analyse des systèmes éducatifs de la confemen (PASEC), Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ), Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA)), Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM);
• National assessments data collected through the Catalogue of Learning Assessments (CLA) and/or available in national reports;
• Population-based assessments (Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA), UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), People’s Action for Learning (PAL) NETWORK: e.g. Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), UWEZO, etc.)).

Source definition

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Calculation method

Number of children and/or young people at the relevant stage of education n in a given year t achieving or exceeding the pre-defined proficiency level in a given subject s, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children and/or young people at stage of education n, in year t, in any proficiency level in subject s.

Data required

• Distribution of the number of children and/or young people at a given stage of education in a given year who are above and below the pre-defined proficiency level;
• Total number of children and/or young people at a given stage of education in a given year who are above and below the pre-defined proficiency level;
• ISCED mapping by country.


The higher the value of the indicator, the higher the proportion of children or young adults who have acquired the minimum level of meaningful competencies.


As currently measured, most large scale learning assessments are focused only on in-school population. The UIS has proposed an adjustment of the indicator 4.1.1 to account for differences in out-of-school rates and completion between countries. A second challenge is the data availability, as many countries do not conduct nationally representative assessments on a regular basis and/or do not participate in any international programme.

Finally, measures of learning by themselves can only provide an incomplete picture of the quality of education in a country; however, they do offer insight that can help countries set their own policies and targets to ensure that no one is left behind.


Governments, teachers and parents all want to know whether their children are adequately prepared to be productive members of society, particularly in today’s globalised labour market. These data will provide a way to compare student performance in subject matters necessary for lifelong learning. Proficiency data will also shed light on where education policies, learning strategies or types of teaching may be yielding better results, providing a starting point for policy reforms.

Quality standards

The UIS maintains a global database on learning assessments in basic education. The inclusion a of data point in the database to show transparency is completed by following a protocol and is reviewed by UIS technical focal points to ensure consistency and overall data quality, based on a set of objective criteria to ensure that only the most recent and reliable information are included in the database. These criteria include: data sources must include proper documentation; data values must be representative at the national population level and, if not, should be footnoted; data values are based on a sufficiently large sample; learning assessments framework are covering the minimum set of contents in the global content framework and levels of proficiency are aligned to the minimum proficiency level (MPL) as defined in the global proficiency framework; and data are plausible and based on trends and consistency with previously published/reported estimates for the indicator.

Types of disaggregation

Disaggregation by sex is the minimum disaggregation expected this indicator. Disaggregation by age or age-group, location, socio-economic status, immigrant status, ethnicity and language of the test at home should also be reported. Parity indexes are estimated in the reporting of Indicator 4.5.1 and subject to country's approval.