Agreement on indicators to monitor progress towards SDG 4 in 2017

A core list of indicators for the achievement of the world's global education goals has been endorsed, representing pragmatic consensus on the indicators that can be, realistically, reported on from early 2017. The Technical Cooperation Group for SDG 4-Education 2030 (TCG), meeting in Madrid on 28 October, signed off on the list of thematic indicators on education that countries will start to use next year. The list emerged from two years of discussions, debates and surveys, and was scrutinised by the TCG one last time to ensure that the indicators are feasible and fit for purpose.

The TCG reviewed the complete list of 43 thematic indicators , which include the 11 global monitoring indicators that were 'locked in' by a process steered by the United Nations Statistical Division. Among the thematic indicators, the TCG identified 29 indicators that can be reported on in 2017 and 14 that will require further development (download Table 1 using safari or chrome browsers). These 14 indicators have not been discarded - but they need more methodological work, data collection and possibly revision before they will be effective for monitoring purposes.

Definitions, data and possibly additional indicators

For example, further methodological work is needed on Indicator 4.7.4 - related to the percentage of students who understand global citizenship and sustainability - and 4.a.3 on the number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions. These need standard definitions to ensure that the resulting indicators are comparable across countries.

In other cases, the challenge is to extend the country coverage of the data sources used to produce the indicators. Latin America, for example, is the only region that reports internationally-comparable data for Indicator 4.6.3 on the percentage of illiterate adults and youth enrolled in literacy programmes.

The TCG also identified areas that, in addition to needing development or revision, may require additional indicators. For example, Target 4.3 calls for equal access for women and men to affordable quality technical, vocational and tertiary education. Yet the current list of global and thematic indicators for this target does not reflect the concepts of affordability or quality. So additional indicators may be required.

Next steps

To resolve these issues, the TCG agreed to a UIS proposal to create a series of working groups, chaired by Member States, in three crucial areas.

The first would focus on the methodological issues and data availability issues related to the thematic indicators that need further development. The second working group would focus specifically on indicators related to learning outcomes through the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning

The third would work on capacity building, recognizing the unprecedented demand for statistics being placed on countries. This group would:

  • identify capacity issues at the global and national level to report specific indicators;
  • develop the methodological tools and resources so that countries can 'take ownership' of the global and thematic indicators and understand the data requirements, potential data sources and calculation techniques;
  • establish a network of stakeholders to support countries' needs;
  • inform countries about the processes used to collect data and produce indicators to ensure transparency and accountability; and
  • develop a mechanism to help countries develop their own National Strategies for the Development of Education Statistics.

The fourth working group would focus on strengthening of reporting of the SDG4 data. Countries and international agencies would, for example, benefit enormously from a comprehensive guide to help them collect and disseminate SDG4 data.