4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
Percentage of children and young people achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics during primary education (Grade 2 or 3), at the end of primary education, and at the end of lower secondary education. The minimum proficiency level will be measured relative to new common reading and mathematics scales currently in development.
The indicator aims to measure the percentage of children and young people who have achieved the minimum learning outcomes in reading and mathematics during or at the end of the relevant stages of education.
The number of children and/or young people at the relevant stage of education n in year t achieving or exceeding the pre-defined proficiency level in subject s expressed as a percentage of the number of children and/or young people at stage of education n, in year t, in any proficiency level in subject s.
MPLt,n,s = MPt,n,s
MPt,n,s = the number of children and young people at stage of education n, in year t, who have achieved or exceeded the minimum proficiency level in subject s.
Indicator 4.1.1 comprises the following six indicators:
Each measurement point by grade and subject has a verbal definition of what children should be able to achieve as a minimum. For each point of measurement, there is a threshold which divides students either above or below a minimum proficiency level. Each of the indicators for Indicator 4.1.1 are interpreted as follows, based on if the student falls above (i) or below (ii) the threshold:
- Above the minimum threshold: the proportion or percentage of students who have achieved at least the minimum proficiency level as defined by each assessment.
- Below the minimum threshold: the proportion or percentage of students who do not achieve the minimum proficiency level as defined by each assessment.
See Methodological Challenges for the minimum proficiency levels by assessments.
Type of data source:
For each of the six indicators of 4.1.1 previously listed for global reporting, the sources of data are:
- International assessments
- Regional assessments
- 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.)
When the results are not nationally representative, a footnote should be added to the data point.
- Define Minimum Proficiency Levels
A minimum proficiency level (MPL) is the benchmark of basic knowledge in a domain (mathematics, reading, etc.) measured through learning assessments. In September 2018, an agreement was reached on a verbal definition of the global MPL of reference for each of the areas and domains of Indicator 4.1.1 as described in the Minimum Proficiency Levels (MPLs): Outcomes of the consensus building meeting.
To ensure comparability across learning assessments, a verbal definition of MPL for each domain and levels between cross-national assessments (CNAs) was established by conducting an analysis of the performance level descriptors (PLDs)
to define the MPLs thresholds for reporting on Indicator 4.1.1.
|Minimum Proficiency Levels for Reading|
|Educational Level||Descriptor||Assessment PLD which aligns with descriptor||MPL assessment|
|Grade 2||They read and comprehend most of written words, particularly familiar ones, and extract explicit information from sentences.||PASEC (Grade 2) – Level 3||Level 3|
|Grade 3||Students read aloud written words accurately and fluently. They understand the overall meaning of sentences and short texts. Students identify the texts’ topic.||PISA-D – Level 1c||Level 2|
|Uwezo – Standard 2 (Story with meaning)||Standard 2 (Story with meaning|
|PASEC 2014 (Grade 2) – Level 4||Level 3|
|Third ERCE (Grade 3) – Level 1||Level 2|
|MICS 6 – Foundational Reading Skills||Foundational Reading Skills|
|EGRA – Level 9||Not specified|
|ASER – Standard 2 (story)||Standard 2 (story)|
|Grades 4 & 6||Students interpret and give some explanations about the main and secondary ideas in different types of texts. They establish connections between main ideas on a text and their personal experiences as well as general knowledge.||SACMEQ 2007 – Level 3||Level 3|
|PASEC 2014 (Grade 6) – Level 2||Level 3|
|PIRLS 2011 – Low||Low|
|Second ERCE 2006 (Grade 6) – Level 2||Level 1 (from Technical reports)|
|Grades 8 & 9||Students establish connections between main ideas on different text types and the author’s intentions. They reflect and draw conclusions based on the text.||PISA 2015 – Level 2||Level 2|
|PILNA 2015 – Level 6||Level 4 (Grade 4)
Level 5 (Grade 5)
|Third ERCE 2014 (Grade 3) – Level 3||Level 2|
|PIRLS 2011 or 2016 - Intermediate||Low|
|SACMEQ 2007 – Level 6||Level 3|
|Third ERCE 2014 (Grade 6) – Level 1||Level 2|
|Minimum Proficiency Levels for Mathematics|
|Educational Level||Descriptor||Assessment PLD which aligns with descriptor||MPL in assessments|
|Grades 2-3||Students demonstrate skills in number sense and computation, shape recognition and spatial orientation.||PASEC 2014 – Level 1||Level 2|
|PASEC 2014 – Level 2|
|Third ERCE 2014 – Level 2||Level 2|
|Grades 4-6||Students demonstrate skills in number sense and computation, basic measurement, reading, interpreting, and constructing graphs, spatial orientation, and number patterns.||PASEC 2014 – Level 1||Level 2|
|SACMEQ 2007 – Level 3||Level 3|
|SACMEQ 2007 – Level 4|
|PILNA 2015 – Level 6||Level 5|
|Third ERCE 2014 – Level 1||Level 2|
|TIMSS 2015 – Intermediate International||Intermediate International|
|Grades 8 & 9||Students demonstrate skills in computation, application problems, matching tables and graphs, and making use of algebraic representations.||PISA 2015 – Level 2||Level 2|
|TIMSS 2015 – Low International||Intermediate International|
- Harmonize various data sources
To address the challenges posed by the limited capacity of some countries to implement cross-national, regional, and national assessments, actions have been taken by the UIS and its partners. The UIS has proposed some options to link assessments together; one of these strategies is the Rosetta Stone, a subject-based psychometric linking approach (new data collection). The second one is the Policy linking approach, which consists on setting benchmarks, or cut scores, on learning assignments to align them with other assessments across countries or contexts (alignment with existing data).
The objective of the Rosetta Stone is to link together assessments, which have been administered in the recent past, to build concordance tables to compare their outcomes and benchmark national results to those of the regional assessments. This method enables countries to measure Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 Indicator 4.1.1.
The Policy linking method makes use of a standard-setting methodology (the Angoff approach for those familiar with standard setting methodologies), long used in many countries, to set benchmarks (also known as “cut scores” or “thresholds”) on learning assessments. While it is an old standard-setting methodology, the UIS and its partners have now extended its use to help countries set benchmarks using the Global Proficiency Framework (GPF), a framework developed by multilateral donors and partners based on current national content and assessment frameworks across more than 100 countries. The GPF provides performance expectations/standards for learners in Grades 2-6 in reading and mathematics. By linking their national assessments to the GPF, countries and donors are able to compare learning outcomes across language groups in countries as well as across countries and over time, assuming all new assessments are subsequently linked to the GPF. Policy linking allows countries to use their existing national assessments or early grade reading and mathematics assessments to report against Indicator 4.1.1.
National learning assessments
It is possible for countries to report on Indicator 4.1.1 using national learning assessments (NLA), providing the following principles apply:
- NLA uses Item response theory (IRT);
- Results from NLA are available as the percentage of students by proficiency levels;
- Proficiency level descriptors are aligned to the global minimum proficiency level;
- The content of NLA sufficiently covers the Global Content Framework (GCF) in the relevant domain, either reading and/or mathematics. The Content Alignment Tool (CAT) allows to map the content of NLA to the GCF.
- The NLA complies with the minimum level of good practices, based on an evaluation using the Procedural Alignment Tool (PAT) (the PAT is also available online). The PAT allows countries to assess the national level of compliance with a set of good practices and, most importantly, evaluate if a minimum level is reached.
- Footnotes are added to the data points (e.g. name of the national assessment, minimum proficiency level, and grade)
- Out-of-school children
In 2016, 263 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school, representing nearly one-fifth of the global population of this age group. 63 million, or 24% of the total, are children of primary school age (typically 6 to 11 years old); 61 million, or 23% of the total, are adolescents of lower secondary school age (typically 12 to 14 years old); and 139 million, or 53% of the total, are youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years old). Not all these kids will be permanently outside school, some will re-join the educational system and, eventually, complete late, while some of them will enter late. The quantity varies per country and region and demands some adjustment in the estimate of Indicator 4.1.1. One pending methodological discussion is how to adjust to reflect all the population. In 2017, the UIS proposed to make adjustments using the out-of-school children (OOSC) and the completion rates.
Protocol for reporting Indicator 4.1.1
In reporting on Indicator 4.1.1, questions may arise in relation to:
- how to map assessments to measurement points of the indicator (grade 2 or 3, end of primary, end of lower secondary);
- the selection of domains for reporting on reading and mathematics, based on those included in a given assessment; and
- the selection of the source of data.
Protocols are given to address these challenges.
- Mapping of grade to measurement point
- Grade 2 or 3: Plus one year when primary lasts more than 4 years according to ISCED levels in the country
- End of primary: Plus or minus one year from the last year of primary according to ISCED level mapping in the country
- End of lower secondary: Plus two or minus one of last year of lower secondary according to ISCED level mapping in the country
- Mapping of domains to reading or mathematics
- When a country has no assessment in reading, alternative domains like language or writing should be used.
- When results are available in different languages, the official or most relevant language in the country should be used.
- Mathematics: alternative domains can also be considered and used for reporting.
|Protocol for reporting on Indicator 4.1.1|
|Measurement point||Type of assessment||Which grade to select|
|Grade 2 or 3||LLECE
PASEC TIMSS PIRLS
|Plus one year
when primary lasts more than 4 years according to ISCED level in the country
|End of primary||LLECE
PASEC SACMEQ PILNA SEAMEO TIMSS
|Yes||PAL Network||Plus or minus one
year of last year of primary according to ISCED levels in the country
|End of lower
|Yes||Young Lives||Plus two or minus
one of last year of lower secondary according to ISCED levels in the country
|Definition of minimum level until 2018 release||Those defined by each assessment by point of measurement and domain|
|Definition of minimum level from 2019||According to alignment as adopted by Global Alliance to Monitoring Learning (GAML) and Technical Cooperation Group (TCG)|
|Grade for end of primary and end of lower secondary||As defined by the ISCED levels in each country|
|Validation||Sent by the UIS for countries’ approval|
Notes: * TIMSS/PIRLS Grade 4: these results are allocated to the end of primary when, according to the ISCED levels in a given country, there are 4 grades in primary. When primary has more than 4 grades, they are allocated to Grade 2 or 3. ** The UIS advises to complement this indicator with out-of-school children indicators.
LLECE: El Laboratorio Latinoamericano de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación
PILNA: Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment
PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment
SEAMEO: Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization
- Decision tree for sources of data
In the selection of the source of data to use for reporting, the assessment which maps the best to the grade should always be the preferred choice of source of data. Until the equating across assessments is complete, cross-national assessments for which data has been collected within the window of reporting should be the second preferred choice, as it allows comparisons with other countries. A national assessment should be selected only if no alternative program for reporting is available within the window of time for reporting.
In the situation where a country has different sources of data available for reporting for a given year and multiple levels, for instance ERCE for Grade 2 or 3, and PISA or TIMSS for the end of lower secondary, only one level (and domain) should be used.
A concrete example illustrates the selection process: Honduras has learning assessments data for Indicator 4.1.1.a (reading) for different years (2011, 2013, 2016). These data have been generated from national, regional, and international learning assessment programs:
|Year||Source of data||Grade|
|2016||National Learning Assessment (NLA)||3|
In this example, the assessment program to use for reporting on Indicator 4.1.1.a (reading) for Honduras should be ERCE 2013. The alternative of PIRLS for 2011 was completed for Grade 4, which is one grade above the intended grade of the indicator to measure (either Grade 2 or 3). ERCE 2013 and the NLA of 2016 both assess Grade 3 students could appear as are better options than PIRLS 2011. However, ERCE, a regional assessment, prevails over Honduras NLA, as according to the priority of data sources indicated above and since it facilitates comparisons between different countries which have implemented a same assessment.
Until the process of equating international, regional and national assessments is complete, it is important to use only one source of information so progress can be tracked on a comparable basis.
The following table illustrates the priorities in the selection of data sources.
|Assessment||Source of data||Alignment to the Global MPL||Priority for reporting by education level||Footnotes to include when reporting|
(PISA, PISA-D, TIMSS, PIRLS)
|Yes||*According to Consensus Meeting||1||[Assessment name and year]|
|Regional assessments (LLECE, PASEC, SACMEQ, PILNA)||Yes||*According to Consensus Meeting||2||[Assessment name and year]|
|National learning assessments (NLA)||Yes||Alignment should be suggested and validated prior to use for reporting||3||“National Learning Assessment (NLA):” [assessment name] & “; Grade ” [grade number] & “; Minimum proficiency level: “ [name or number of the MPL used for reporting]|
|EGRA and EGMA||Yes||*According to Consensus Meeting||4||[Assessment name and year]|
|MICS||Yes||*According to Consensus Meeting||4||[Assessment name and year]|
(ASER, UWEZO, etc.)
|Yes||*According to Consensus Meeting||4||[Assessment name and year]|
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)
- Metadata points
Footnotes should added to data points (e.g. name of the assessment, minimum proficiency level, and grade)
Indicators are published disaggregated by age or age-group, sex, location, socio-economic status, immigrant status, ethnicity and language of the test at home. Parity indexes are estimated in the reporting of Indicator 4.5.1. Information on the disaggregation of variable for Indicator 4.1.1 are presented in the following tables.
|Sex or Gender|
|Parity index (API)||Relevant link|
|PISA||Sex of students||Nominal||2||Are you female or male?||Female
|Sex of students||Nominal||2||Are you a girl or a boy?||Girls
|LLECE||Sex of students||Nominal||2||Usted es niño o niña?||Niña
|PASEC||Sex of students||Nominal||2||Are you a girl or a boy?||Fille
|SACMEQ||Sex of students||Nominal||2||What is your sex?||Female
|Sex of students||Nominal||2||Are you a girl or a boy?||Girls
|Parity index (API)||Relevant link|
|School location declared by the principal||Nominal||5||Which best describes the immediate area in which your school is located?
Urban-Densely populated, Suburban-on fringe or outskirts of urban area, Medium size city or large town, Small town or village, remote rural
Urban Densely populated
|PISA||School location declared by the principal||Nominal||5||Which of the following definitions best describes the community in which your school is located?
A village, hamlet or rural area (fewer than 3.000 people), A small town (3.000 to about 15.000 people), A town (15.000 to about 100.000 people); A city (100.000 to about 1.000.000 people); A large city (over 1.000.000 people)
|PASEC||School location declared by the principal||Nominal||4||Votre école est située dans.?
Un ville, Une banlieue de grande ville, Un grand village (plusieurs centaines de concessions), Un petit village (plusieurs dizaines de concessions)
|Un petit village
|LLECE||School location declared by the principal||Nominal||5||Su escuela se encuentra en una localidad de:
2.000 habitantes o menos, Entre 2.001 y 5.000 habitantes, entre 5.001 y 10.000 habitantes, entre 10.001 y 100.000 habitantes, más de 100.000 habitantes
|SACMEQ||School location declared by the principal||Nominal||5||Which of the following best describes the location of your school?
Isolated, Rural, In or near a small town, in or near a large town or city
|Rural/Urban (city)||http://www.sacmeq.org/sites/default/files/sacmeq/training-modules/sacmeq-training-module-8.pdf; http://www.sacmeq.org/sites/default/files/sacmeq/reports/sacmeq-iii/working-documents/wd01_sacmeq_iii_results_pupil_achievement.pdf|
|School location declared by the principal||Nominal||2||Is this considered an urban or a rural school?
|Parity index (API)||Relevant link|
|PISA||Index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status (ESCS)
In PISA, a student’s socio-economic status is estimated by the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status (ESCS), which is derived from several variables related to students’ family background: parents’ education, parents’ occupations, a number of home possessions that can be taken as proxies for material wealth, and the number of books and other educational resources available in the home.
|Quartiles||Bottom quarter, Second quarter, Third quarter
|The ESCS is a composite score built by three components: the indicators parental education in years (PARED), Highest parental occupational status (HISEI), and home possessions (HOMEPOS) via a proxy measure for family wealth that includes (25 items): availability of country-specific household for example, such as a subscription to a daily newspaper, an MP3 player, Internet connection at home, the number of books at home, a computer or specific educational software.||Bottom quarter,
|Technical report PISA 2015 - Chapter 16: https://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015-technical-report/PISA2015_TechRep_Final.pdf
Pisa Result 2018, volume II Chapter 2: http://www.oecd.org/publications/pisa-2018-results-volume-ii-b5fd1b8f-en.htm
|LLECE||lndice de nivel socioeconómico de los estudiantes
INSE is constructed from the information of the complementary questionnaires of parents or guardians. INSE is composed of the variables related to the mother's educational and work history, household income, housing goods and services, and the amount of books available.
|Quartiles||Low quarter, Second quarter, Third quarter, High quarter||¿Cuál es el nivel educativo más alto que la madre del estudiante ha completado? Si la madre trabaja, señale aquella labor que más se parezca al trabajo que generalmente realiza; En un mes normal, ¿en cuál de los siguientes rangos se encuentra actualmente el ingreso total líquido del hogar donde vive el niño? ¿De qué material es la mayor parte de los pisos de su vivienda? ¿Cuenta con alguno de los siguientes servicios en su hogar? ¿Cuántos de los siguientes bienes tiene en su hogar? ¿Cuántos libros hay en la casa del niño? Considere todos los tipos de libro: poesía, novelas, diccionarios, libros de estudio, etc.||Low quarter/High quarter||Informe de resultados TERCE: Factores asociados. See: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000243533|
|Parity index (API)||Relevant link|
|PASEC||Capital socioéconomique et culturel des familles
L´Indice Capital socioéconomique et culturel des familles est construit à partir des réponses du questionnaire complémentaire détenu aux étudiants (résultats non disponibles)
|Variables: Possession de biens matériels, caractéristiques de l’habitation, alphabétisme de la famille, utilisation
de la langue d’enseignement et de(s) langue(s) de socialisation, indice socioéconomique
|1 quintile/5 quintile||Cadre de référence des questionnaires contextuels, Voir: https://www.pasec.confemen.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PASEC_2014_CADRE_REFERENCE_QUESTIONNAIRE_VF.pdf; Rapport PASEC 2014, voir: https://www.confemen.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/RapportPasec2014_FR_BD1.pdf|
|SAQMEC||Index of the Socioeconomic Status (SES) of pupils
The SACMEQ Index of the socioeconomic status (SES) of pupils is derived from five elements that define the pupils’ family environment
|Quartiles||Low SES (25%)
High SES (75%)
|Components: - the level of education of the father and mother, - the number of books in the home, - the presence of eleven items in the home (a newspaper, a magazine, a radio, a television, a VCR, an audio cassette player, a telephone, a refrigerator, a car, running water and a table), - the structural quality of the house (floor, outside walls and roof), - the main source of light, determining whether or not pupils can read.||Bottom quarter
|See: http://www.sacmeq.org/sites/default/files/sacmeq/reports/sacmeq-iii/working-documents/wd01_sacmeq_iii_results_pupil_achievement.pdf; http://www.sacmeq.org/sites/default/files/sacmeq/research/Papers%20from%20the%202005%20International%20Invitational%20Educational%20Policy%20Research%20Conference/dolata.pdf|
|Parity index (API)||Relevant link|
|Status declared by Students||Nominal||Country specific||1. Were you born (country)?
2. Was your child born in (country of test)? If, No, how old was your child when he/she came to (country od test) Younger than 3 years old, 3 to 5 years old, 6 to 7 years old, 8 years old or older.
|PISA||Status declared by Students||Nominal||Country specific||In what country were you and your parents born? You, Mother and Father||Immigrant
|ERCE||Status declared by Students||Nominal||Country specific||¿Naciste en este país?
Si no naciste en este país ¿ qué edad tenías cuando llegaste?
|PIACC||Status declared by respondents||Nominal||Country specific||Were you born in (country) in what country were you born? At what age or in which year did you first immigrant to (country)?||Foreign-born/Native-born||https://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/publications/PIAAC_Technical_Report_2019.pdf|
|PASEC||Le statut est directement reporté par les élèves avec l’appui de l’enquêteur||Nominal||Country specific||Were you born in (country) in what country were you born?||No
|Language of test at home|
|Parity index (API)||Relevant link|
|The main language is declared by the student||Nominal||Country specific||Do you speak the same language at home as you speak at school?|
|PASEC||The main language is declared by the student||Nominal||Country specific||Quelle langue parles-tu chez toi?|
|PISA||The main language is declared by the student||Nominal||Country specific||What language do you speak at home of the time?||Students who speak mainly another language at home / Students who speak mainly the test language at home||https://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2018database/CY7_201710_QST_MS_STQ_NoNotes_final.pdf|
|SACMEQ||The main language is declared by the student||Nominal||2||Do you speak English outside school? Yes/No||http://www.sacmeq.org/sites/default/files/sacmeq/training-modules/sacmeq-training-module-8.pdf|
|LLECE||The main language is declared by the student||Nominal||4||En tu casa ¿qué idioma hablan la mayor parte del tiempo? Castellano o portugués, lengua extranjera, lengua indígena, otra lengua||Habla lengua de la evaluación
No habla lengua de la evaluación
Limitations and comments:
Learning outcomes from cross-national learning assessment are directly comparable for all countries which participated in the same cross-national learning assessments. However, these outcomes are not comparable across different cross-national learning assessments or with national learning assessments. A level of comparability of learning outcomes across assessments could be achieved by using different methodologies, each with varying standard errors. The period of 2020-2021 will shed light on the standard errors’ size for these methodologies.
The comparability of learning outcomes over time has additional complications, which require, ideally, to design and implement a set of comparable items as anchors in advance. Methodological developments are underway to address comparability of assessments outcomes over time.
CAT Content Alignment Tool
CLA Catalogue of Learning Assessments
CNA Cross-national assessments
GAML Global Alliance to Monitoring Learning
GCF Global Content Framework
GPF Global Proficiency Framework
IRT Item response theory
ISCED International Standard Classification of Education
MPL Minimum proficiency level
PAT Procedural Alignment Tool
PLD Performance level descriptors
SDG Sustainable Development Goal
TCG Technical Cooperation Group
ASER Annual Status of Education Report
EGRA Early Grade Reading Assessment
EGMA Early Grade Mathematics Assessment
ERCE Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study
LLECE El Laboratorio Latinoamericano de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación
MICS Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys
PAL Network People’s Action for Learning Network
PASEC Programme d’analyse des systèmes éducatifs de la confemen
PIACC Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
PILNA Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment
PIRLS Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
PISA Programme for International Student Assessment
PISA-D Programme for International Student Assessment for Development
SACMEQ Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality
SEAMEO Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization
TIMSS Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
UWEZO (not an acronym)
 PLD: Performance level descriptors are descriptions of the performance levels to express the knowledge and skills required to achieve each performance level, by domain. They can be used to provide stakeholders with more information on what students at each performance level know and are able to do and what they need to know and be able to do to reach next performance level.
 The CAT includes questionnaire which allows respondents to determine the level of alignment of their NLA with the GCF in reading and mathematics. The exercise can be completed with guidance from the reference document, and with support from the UIS.
 The PAT requires respondents to answer a series of questions on their implementation of NLA based on five major groupings (capacity and technical standards, instrument development, linguistic control, sampling, and data control, analysis and reporting). Upon completion of the questionnaire, a report is produced (PAT Report).
 UIS (2017a). More than one-half of children and adolescents are not learning worldwide. Montreal and UIS (2017b). Counting the number of children not learning: Methodology for a global composite indicator for education. Montreal.
 ISCED: International Standard Classification of Education