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UNESCO Report Proposes International Measures for Monitoring Ed Progress

UNESCO, the United Nations organization focused on education, science and culture, has released a proposed set of indicators to monitor education progress globally. Equity surfaces as a key focus. The major challenge of the work will be develop internationally comparable indicators that could be used to improve and monitor learning outcomes.

A technical advisory group developed 42 "thematic indicators" that could be used to track global progress in the implementation of a "post-2015 education agenda." "Education 2030," as it's being referred to, sets the year by which specific education goals are expected to be met.

The first indicator referenced in the latest report would measure the percentage of children who achieve minimum proficiency standards in reading/mathematics by the end of primary and lower secondary school. Tackling the measurement of that in every country, the report noted, would require the development of a "global metric" for each subject as a reference point to which different assessments at the national, regional and international levels could be linked.

The emphasis on learning outcomes in this and other indicators is a shift from previous global education targets that stressed access, participation and completion in formal primary education as well as gender equality.

Other indicators in the new report are grouped into these areas:

  • Access to quality early childhood development to help children prepare for primary education;
  • Access to "affordable and quality" technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university;
  • Increasing the number of young people and adults who have the skills needed for "employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship";
  • Eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access for "the vulnerable," including people with disabilities and indigenous peoples;
  • Boosting literacy and numeracy to "all youth and at least x per cent of adults, both men and women";
  • Making sure all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote "sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity";
  • Building and upgrading education facilities that are "child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all";
  • Expanding "by x percent" the number of scholarships for higher education available to people in developing countries; and
  • Increasing the "supply of qualified teachers," particularly in developing countries.

The full list of indicators will eventually be prioritized. By the end of the process, the working group expects that six to 10 indicators will actually be selected and applied.

Education 2030 faces two "critical challenges," the report stated: measurement of learning outcomes and improved measurement of equity in education. Thus, the emphasis on coming up with indicators that will work for all countries. To achieve this goal, the reported stated, "it will be essential to strengthen data from administrative and household sources; agree on common definitions and standards; and create stronger partnerships between organizations focused on measurement."

The current recommendation, which is summarized in a 13-page report, was developed based on input from 200 organizations and individuals in 67 countries during a public consultation that took place between November 2014 and January 2015. Feedback came in from academia, governments, development organizations and other sources.

Next up, the World Education Forum will continue discussing Education 2030, including during a "ministerial-level meeting" taking place in November 2015 and at a March 2016 meeting of the United Nations Statistical Commission, the decision-making body for international statistical activities.

The report is available online as a PDF file on the UNESCO Institute for Statistics Web site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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