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Learning levels unknown for over half a billion children: UNESCO holds the first ever Conference on Education Data and Statistics to present solutions

There is insufficient progress towards national benchmarks. There are massing gaps in data, with learning levels still remaining unknown for over half a billion children. Progress is particularly off track for: Out of school rate and Learning levels. Progress is close to national targets in: Primary school internet connectivity and school teachers with minimum required qualification. In two indicators, countries are moving backwards: The gender gap among countries with a disadvantage for boys and public education expenditure.
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The first ever global Conference on Education Data and Statistics is being convened by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in Paris, 7-9 February. It will discuss the gaps in data that have led to significant blind spots on children’s education around the world and present solutions to fix them. Almost half of countries are not measuring children’s learning levels as they progress through school, leaving 680 million children’s achievement uncounted.

The Conference aims to establish a community of practice among countries’ education statisticians, to help reach agreement on concepts, definitions, and methodologies for monitoring progress towards the fourth Sustainable Development Goal on Education, SDG 4. Bringing together UN agencies, regional organizations, and political leaders, it will discuss what is holding back the effective monitoring of education progress and debate the use of technology for collecting data.

Two new UNESCO tools to reduce data gaps 

UNESCO will present two new tools during the Conference, both designed by UIS, to reduce persistent data gaps and improve analysis for policy-making:

    • The LASER tool shows all existing data gaps by country against areas key for education progress.
    • The Assessment of Minimum Proficiency Level (AMPL) tool will allow countries to fill the data gap on children’s learning levels, through 20 questions that can be easily integrated into countries’ existing cross-national and national assessments at a low cost and within a short frame.  The tool has already been rolled out in seven countries in Africa and Asia that had previously not been able to report learning data to feed into SDG 4 monitoring.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics is the official source of data on SDG 4 and has in recent years introduced new approaches and models to fill data gaps, which have increased the share of countries reporting on governments’ education spending from 68% to 90%, and on out-of-school children from 62% to 98%. This innovative approach provided new numbers on children out of school in countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya that had not reported data for over a decade.

Launch of SDG4 scorecard 

The second edition of UNESCO’s SDG 4 Scorecard will also be launched at the Conference, demonstrating why comparable education data is important. Produced by the UIS and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, the Scorecard shows that countries’ progress towards their national SDG 4 benchmarks is insufficient.

If countries were on track to reach their 2025 benchmarks, 76% of children would be participating in early childhood education and 66% of students would be proficient in reading by the end of primary school. However, currently these figures stand at 69% and 58% respectively.

Identifying national benchmarks along with ministries has reinvigorated countries’ ownership of the monitoring of education, but also demonstrated the impact of missing data to assess progress.

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