Calling all partners: How to diagnose and treat data gaps that threaten the achievement of the global education goals

Also published by Norrag
By Luis Crouch, Chief Technical Officer, International Development Group, RTI, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.


The gaps in education data have become a recurring theme in this blog. Indeed, most observers would agree that if data on education were a human body, it would be a sick patient at the moment. We see the gaps in the data each day, and the struggles of statisticians as they try valiantly to plug those gaps. And this is the reality: we lack the basic data of sufficient quality to track global – or in many cases, national – progress towards the educational goals. Continue reading

Putting culture front and centre: Time for a new approach

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Culture is who we are. Whether we are from Alaska or Johannesburg, from the smallest rural hamlet or one of the world’s megacities, our culture has been the building block of our identity, our sense of belonging and the social and economic cohesion of our communities. It has moulded our attitudes to our families and friends, our jobs, our state of mind and our overall wellbeing.

Policymakers who neglect culture undermine their own aims, for culture determines the viability of development action. It either provides the dynamic conditions necessary for truly sustainable development or, if ignored, dooms development efforts to failure. Continue reading

Getting the full picture on education finance

By Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education,
Suzanne Grant Lewis, Director of the International Institute for Education Planning, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Last week, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity released a major report, calling for a new compact between developing countries and the international community to transform education performance, innovation, inclusion and finance.

We welcome these recommendations but the trouble is we don’t know enough about education finance within countries: about where the money comes from, where it goes, or whether it is spent efficiently. National statisticians looking for hard numbers often have to forage across a whole range of mis-matched sources and even solid figures on government spending show just part of the picture, missing the money poured into education by other sources, particularly families. As things stand, it’s almost impossible to work out how much money is spent on the education of each child around the world. Continue reading

How much does your country invest in research and development (R&D)?

Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and Damien Chalaud, Executive Director of the World Federation of Science Journalists

As the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gathers momentum, there has been a lot of noise about the ‘big ticket’ factors seen as fundamental for their achievement: immediate and sustained action, political will, adequate resources, equity … the list goes on. And it’s true. We need all of these and more. But there has been less clamour about the role of innovation, even though this will fuel progress on each and every SDG. And there has been barely a whisper about its foundation: research and development (R&D).

This matters: investment in R&D is one of the main drivers of investment in the new knowledge, technology and thinking that drives innovation at country level. So, if governments want to know how well they are doing on innovation, they really need to know how well they are doing on R&D. Continue reading

Tell us: What do you think about the SDG 4-Education 2030 indicators?

Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Co-chair of the Technical Cooperation Group on SDG 4–Education 2030 Indicators

We work on a daily basis with governments, national statistical offices, UN partners and civil society organizations around the world to standardise the methodologies and produce the data needed to monitor progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. I must admit that there are moments when the challenges seem daunting, especially when only one-half of the data needed to produce the indicators are currently available. But daunting does not mean insurmountable. The trick lies in prioritising and defining a clear strategy to get the job done. Continue reading

50 years of International Literacy Day: Time to develop new literacy data

Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Today marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. This year’s Day, under the banner of ‘Reading the Past, Writing the Future’, honours five decades of global progress on literacy rates. It also explores innovative ways to expand literacy in the future: a global promise set out in Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education. Target 4.6 aims to ensure that all youth and most adults achieve literacy and numeracy by 2030.

According to new baseline data for Target 4.6 from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the world has come a long way over the past 50 years and there is much to celebrate. The latest data, presented in a fact sheet and illustrated in the UNESCO eAtlas of Literacy, show remarkable progress on youth literacy. Continue reading