A guide to the indicators to monitor SDG 4–Education 2030

The “Meet the Education 2030 Data” series explains the global and thematic indicators that will be used to monitor Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and the Education 2030 targets. It offers a starting point for readers interested in more in-depth information. The UIS will add new indicator briefs as information becomes available.

Learning is at the top of the new global education agenda. Five of the ten SDG 4 targets focus on the learning outcomes of children, youth and adults. In particular, Target 4.1 calls upon the international community to measure the completion of schooling, but also the quality of learning, in primary and lower secondary education.

The UIS already produces data on completion rates for boys and girls at the primary and lower secondary levels. The challenge lies in measuring the quality of education and learning globally.

To do this, two new indicators must be developed: Indicator 4.1.1, which will measure learning proficiency in reading and mathematics in primary and lower secondary education; and Indicator 4.1.2, which will track the extent to which countries conduct learning assessments and/or participate in cross-national assessments, in primary and secondary education, as well as the subject matters assessed.

This brief explains Indicator 4.1.2.

What do the data tell us?

Through a series of maps, presented below, we can clearly see which countries have conducted their own national assessments and/or participated in cross-national initiatives to measure the reading, writing and mathematical skills of children and youth in primary and lower secondary education over the past five years.

Clearly, there are big gaps in both geographic coverage of assessments and in the type of information gathered. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, countries belonging to the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), which have not reported data since 2012, may need help developing more robust infrastructure.

Perhaps most importantly, we get a sense of the complexity involved in monitoring learning globally. Even though about 80% of countries have conducted some type of large-scale assessment, the resulting data cannot be compared internationally.

This is why the UIS has launched the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), which will develop the methodological frameworks and standards needed to link these different assessments and produce a new generation of data on learning to monitor SDG 4 and the related targets of Education 2030. 

To help advance this work, the UIS has created the Learning Assessment Capacity Index (LACI), based on the Indicator 4.1.2. The UIS Catalogue of Learning Assessments also offers a wealth of information, including descriptive, standardised and comparable information on public examinations, national and international assessments in primary and lower secondary education programmes in countries across the world.

How will the data be produced?

The UIS will be working with countries, as well as regional and international partners,* to collect the data needed to produce Indicator 4.1.2 on an annual basis. 


Formula: LAtn,s = 1, yes if there exists a national, regional or international learning assessment in any year between t-5 and t
         = 0, no otherwise 

*Cross-national assessment partners include:

  • Laboratorio Latinoamericano de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación (LLECE)
  • Programme d’Analyse des Systèmes Educatifs de la CONFEMEN (PASEC)
  • Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA)
  • Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)
  • Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
  • South East Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM)
  • Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ)
  • Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)