New proposed indicators to monitor the post-2015 education framework

By Albert Motivans, Head of Education Statistics, UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Manos Antoninis, Senior Policy Analyst, Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

The post-2015 sustainable development agenda, including the education goal, has received praise for its ambitious and universal scope. The challenge now lies in developing a solid monitoring framework, which can be used to track progress towards the targets while helping to focus international efforts on areas that might be left behind.

WEFThis blog presents the proposal – by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) established by UNESCO – for a set of indicators to monitor the post-2015 education targets. This proposal will be presented at a special session of the World Education Forum in Incheon on 20 May.  The proposal complements the draft Framework for Action on Education 2030, which will be debated at the Forum.

The TAG proposal includes 42 thematic indicators that could be used to monitor education progress globally. Ultimately, it is expected that about six to ten of these indicators will be selected by the United Nations Statistical Commission to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, while the broader set of indicators proposed will be used to monitor progress towards the 10 education targets under this Goal.

The proposal incorporates feedback from a public consultation, which took place between November 2014 and January 2015, on a discussion document put forward by the TAG. Almost 200 organizations and individuals from 67 countries participated in the public consultation, which provided a rich array of feedback from representatives of civil society, academia, development partners, governments and other stakeholders. The submissions are available online and a summary of the comments is presented in the proposal. This blog lays out some of the key feedback received

New indicators resulting from the consultation

As a result of the consultation, the proposal contains some new indicators, while other indicators were revised. For example: 

    • Three new indicators were added to better capture inequalities not only in education results but also in education systems (e.g. related to language of instruction, targeting of resources to disadvantaged populations, and the share of education expenditure borne by households).
    • Three new indicators were added to capture the need for curricula to focus on education for sustainable development: global citizenship education, HIV and sexuality education, and human rights education.
    • Two new indicators were added to capture the availability of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in schools.
Photo: Binh Duong/UNESCO
Photo: Binh Duong/UNESCO
  • A new indicator was added on the availability of infrastructure and materials for people with disabilities in schools.
  • A new indicator was added on the number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions. In addition, the need to monitor the educational participation of children and adolescents in conflict situations, in particular among refugee and displaced populations, was recognised.

Equity, learning and education quality – more indicators please!

There was a broad consensus that equity is a key focus of the post-2015 education agenda. Participants in the consultation stressed the need for more indicators about disparities in learning opportunities, as well as in education inputs and processes (e.g., trained teachers, school conditions, etc.). It is important to note that the TAG proposal recommends disaggregating every indicator where feasible by at least three individual characteristics that allow scope for global comparisons (i.e. sex, location and wealth). Ideally, further disaggregation to the extent possible is encouraged.

Another major concern raised in the consultation was how to measure learning outcomes in basic education. Some felt that the focus on two subjects (reading and mathematics) was justified, whereas others argued that it was too limited. Current measures of reading and mathematics levels are more widely available and allow for greater comparability across countries. Yet the TAG also strongly encourages efforts to develop measures for other subjects, as well as to complement these measures with those on quality inputs and processes.

The consultation also underscored the different views that exist on the use of national or international standards to measure learning. The TAG believes that, in order to monitor the success of the post-2015 agenda, it is necessary to develop a shared international understanding of what competencies children and adolescents need to acquire at each education level drawing on a common standard.

Next steps

© Rene Edde 2008
© Rene Edde 2008

The World Education Forum will mark a milestone in this process. Discussions and modifications are not over, however, and will continue, notably ahead of a Ministerial-level meeting organized by UNESCO in November 2015 and the 47th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission in March 2016.

We must recognise that the proposed indicator framework is very ambitious. The international community is not ready to begin implementing this framework without making considerable efforts, mobilising the resources needed to reinforce national capacity, and coordinating at the international level. The indicator framework can serve as guidance for Member States and development partners and as a roadmap to produce the data needed to help ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities.



  1. We must recognise that the proposed indicator framework is very ambitious. The international community is not ready to begin implementing this framework without making considerable efforts, mobilising the resources needed to reinforce national capacity, and coordinating at the international level.Health Information companies

  2. I have posted this in another forum:It is pleasing to see the focus on teachers. However one must be aware that teacher and teaching are disjunctive concepts and that there are therefore many pathways to quality teachers and teaching. One training package will not be sufficient. This was tried at the competency based movement years ago and failed miserably. I have written extensively on this and assessment at the public level. Monitoring i.e. national assessments is another minefield of pseudo science.
    I add this piece to address some of the other issues. It is critical to any monitoring process that all participants are on the same page ,specifically what(precisely) is being measured. Words such as “quality” have political, social, emotions, academic, economic, connotations as does the word curriculum which itself is a statement within a desired political framework. In the west it is within a democratic framework and all that entails with reference to access, equity, disadvantage etc etc. Many orientations outside the democratic umbrella have other definitional umbrellas for decision making with regard to the various definitions.. So the basic statements concerning definitional aspects of monitoring, curriculum, teaching, basic eduction etc need to be carefully spelled out. I for one would have a definition of basic education for sustainable development wrapped up in the following highly sophisticated set of subjects as they are economic performers in recessions etc namely music, art, craft, drama, enterprise, political activism. and so one. Language and mathematics as key indicators of a cultural uplift with sustainability as as a key indicator to monitor fall very short.

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