Huge Gaps in Learning Data for Children

UNESCO holds the first ever Conference on Education Data and Statistics to present solutions.
Feb 7, 2024
New tools to close gaps in data on reading levels.

So, what are the reading levels that children have attained around the world? Truth is we, largely, don’t know, there is next to no information on how well almost half a billion children read.

Almost half of the countries globally are not measuring children’s learning levels as they progress through school, leaving 680 million children’s achievement uncounted.

The issue needs looking at and UNESCO is launching two new tools to reduce data gaps, both designed by UIS (UNESCI Institute for Statistics), to close persistent gaps in knowledge and improve analysis for policy-making.

The new LASER tool shows all existing data gaps by country against areas key for education progress.

The Assessment of Minimum Proficiency Level (AMPL) tool will allow countries to fill the data gap on children’s learning levels, through 20 questions that can be easily integrated into countries’ existing cross-national and national assessments at a low cost and within a short time frame. The tool has already been rolled out in seven countries in Africa and Asia that had previously not been able to report learning data to feed into SDG 4 (Sustainable Development Goal)  monitoring.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics has introduced new approaches and models to fill data gaps, which have increased the share of countries reporting on governments’ education spending from 68% to 90%, and on out-of-school children from 62% to 98%. This Institute has provided new numbers on children out of school in countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya that had not reported data for over a decade.

The second edition of UNESCO’s SDG 4 Scorecard will also be launched at the Conference, demonstrating why comparable education data is important. Produced by the UIS and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, the Scorecard shows that countries’ progress towards their national SDG 4 benchmarks is insufficient.

If countries were on track to reach their 2025 benchmarks, 76% of children would be participating in early childhood education and 66% of students would be proficient in reading by the end of primary school. However, currently these figures stand at 69% and 58% respectively.

Identifying national benchmarks along with ministries has reinvigorated countries’ ownership of the monitoring of education, but also demonstrated the impact of missing data to assess progress.

The new tools were launched at the first ever global Conference on Education Data and Statistics is being convened by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in Paris.

The gaps in data that have led to significant blind spots on children’s education around the world and present solutions to fix them will be discussed.

The Conference aims to establish a community of practice among countries’ education statisticians, to help reach agreement on concepts, definitions, and methodologies for monitoring progress towards the fourth Sustainable Development Goal on Education, SDG 4.

UN agencies, regional organizations, and political leaders will meet to discuss what is holding back the effective monitoring of education progress and debate the use of technology for collecting data.