With just a decade remaining to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for Education (SDG 4), relevant, timely, and quality data is key to monitoring progress and informing policy responses. This was further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted progress on school participation and learning, widened gaps between and within countries and underscored the urgency to re-examine efforts to achieve SDG targets.

In the current release, the UIS provides data for the reference year ending in 2020 for 44 SDG indicators including: the new global indicator 4.7.1 Mainstreaming global citizenship education and education for sustainable development and thematic indicator 4.1.0 Proportion of children/young people prepared for the future. The UIS piloted approaches to incorporating new data sources, adding over 6,000 data points for 16 indicators with significant gains in sub Saharan Africa, East Asia and Small Island States.

In parallel, initiatives - including improved documentation for glossary and indicator metadata, tools to calculate SDG 4 indicators, repositories of national information and improved accessibility of data - all build towards supporting countries and other stakeholders in understanding and using SDG 4 indicators and data to inform policy decisions. 

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increasing demand for data on out-of-school children (Indicator 4.1.4). For the current release, data on out-of-school rates have been updated for over 100 countries, and new countries have been added to the database. Moreover, revisions to the calculation of out-of-school rates in 2018 to include pre-primary enrolment have led to a more accurate account of out-of-school children, particularly regarding rates for primary school aged children and children aged one year before the official start of primary.

UIS data can be obtained from the following sources: 
•    UIS Data Portal, which houses internationally comparable data on all levels of education for more than 200 countries and territories.
•    Bulk data download service (BDDS), which enables access to all UIS databases in comma-separated values (CSV) format.
•    SDG 4 data resources, which contains resources to visualize SDG data, Benchmark data, and the repositories of national publications with administrative data on education and educational expenditure data.

Note: As of June 23rd, 2020 the UIS SDMX API reached its End-of-Life (EOL) and is no longer up-to-date with the latest UIS datasets. 

Indicator update: New indicator and disaggregation dimensions 
New Indicator 4.7.1 aimed at measuring progress on “learning to live together sustainably”

SDG 4 establishes that by 2030 we have to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and contains 10 specific targets. One of these targets, 4.7, refers to the knowledge and skills necessary for a sustainable future. Specifically, it states that by 2030, we have to “ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”.  

As the custodian for Indicator 4.7.1, in 2019 UNESCO developed the methodology to collect information and measure how the world progresses towards SDG 4.7 aimed at “learning to live together sustainably”. In this standard-setting and monitoring role, every four years, the organization invites Member States to report on progress made in implementing its 1974 Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Indicator 4.7.1 also forms part of the UNESCO Thematic Indicators for Culture in the 2030 Agenda, under the dimension “Knowledge and Skills”  as part of the framework for assessing the contribution of culture in building knowledge and skills including local knowledge and cultural diversity.

In 2020, the global indicator for target 4.7 was approved and defined as: 4.7.1: Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment. The current data release provides 2020 information for 55 countries for this indicator.

In this annual release, the UIS is publishing data on the following indicators for the first time

  • Indicator 4.1.0 Proportion of children/young people prepared for the future, by sex. Available for 100 countries for years ranging between 2001 and 2019. 
  • Indicator 4.4.2 Percentage of youth/adults who have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in digital literacy skills. Available for 81 countries for 2020.
  • Indicator 4.7.6 Extent to which national education policies and education sector plans recognize a breadth of skills that needs to be enhanced in national education systems. Available for 3 countries for 2020. 

Along with our full suite of indicators, the current data release also presents new disaggregated dimensions for the following indicators: 

  • Educational attainment - urban and rural data added to:

o    Indicator 4.4.1 Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill.
o    Indicator 4.4.3 Youth/adult educational attainment rates by age group and level of education.

  • Disaggregation by disability added to:

o    Indicator 4.1.2 Completion rate (primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education)
o    Indicator 4.1.4 Out-of-school rate (primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education). 

  • Disaggregation by location (urban/rural) and socioeconomic status (SES) added to:

o    Indicator 4.7.4 Percentage of students in lower secondary education showing adequate understanding of issues relating to global citizenship and sustainability.
o    Indicator 4.5.1 Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile, low/high socio-economic status, migrant/non-migrant, and others as data become available) for all education indicators on this document that can be disaggregated. Parity indices were added for Indicators 4.1.2, 4.1.4 and 4.4.3.

Further, at the Additional Policy Relevant Indicators level, regional averages are featured in this data release for Total Net Enrolment for primary education.

Harnessing and harmonizing existing national data to monitor SDG 4 

In 2020, the UIS piloted an approach to fill data gaps for 16 SDG 4 Indicators, by compiling data from national annual digests or statistical yearbooks. The pilot demonstrated that national institutions find it challenging – particularly in the midst of a global pandemic – to regularly report on official education statistics, especially given the more complex demands of the 2030 Agenda. In an effort to harness the wealth of existing national data and harmonize these in a way that can help monitor progress towards SDG education targets, the UIS first validated the methodology from the pilot study. The methodology was expanded to include 162 countries for education indicators and 170 countries for the indicator on educational expenditure. The additional number of data points published as a result of this exercise sit around 6,000. In terms of data for expenditure, a careful analysis of not only national but also international data sources was mapped, leading to a dramatic increase in coverage and the timeliness of reporting. 

Data gap analysis and filling is a necessary step to ensure the UIS supports countries in making the best use of available data. This fits within a broader concerted UIS initiative that seeks to make education data collection, data use and dissemination more efficient and accessible and to reduce the burden of reporting for countries.

National repositories

The UIS launched two National Repositories as a result of this data exercise. The National Repository of Education Indicator Reports contains links to national reports that include statistical data on enrolment, repeaters, teachers and school infrastructure to enable the calculation of different SDG indicators. Meanwhile, the Repository of Education Expenditure Reports hosts the different links to two types of national reports on education expenditure – budgeted or executed. Country-level data are easily accessible through both repositories. 
Support to Member States on SDG 4 monitoring

As part of broader initiatives to support Member States to report SDG 4, the UIS provided training on its Survey of Formal Education and the related SDG 4 indicators to 480 national educational statisticians and planners from countries in the Arab States, Asia Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. 

Tools to calculate indicators

As part of the data gap filling exercise, the UIS developed and tested tools to support countries in estimating SDG 4 indicators from raw data with indicator definitions and metadata. This helps develop an understanding of the methodological decisions, fostering a sense of ownership at the country level and should lead to strengthened use of SDG 4 indicators in national policy development and planning exercises. Pilot workshops with Cambodia, The Gambia, India, Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam in 2021 will be extended to other countries in the near future.