Target 4.5 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on equity in education?


4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations

4-5While there is progress toward monitoring education disparities, the new agenda calls for bolder steps to monitor different marginalized and vulnerable groups and the policies needed to overcome inequality.

The desire to ‘leave no one behind’ is the hallmark of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has spurred demand for global monitoring and reporting of inequality, a trend also confirmed by the theme of UNESCO’s 2016 World Social Science Report. This year’s GEM Report looks at three issues at stake when monitoring equity in education: how we should report inequalities, who we should report on, and what else we should report on beyond parity

  • How should we measure and report inequality?

The parity index is the proposed way for measuring inequalities in education at a global level. It expresses the value of an education indicator, such as access to education, or learning, for a disadvantaged group relative to its value for an advantaged group. The wealth parity index, for example, shows us that only 7 of the poorest 20% complete upper secondary education for every 100 of the richest 20% in low income countries.

4-5-figureThe parity index is the easiest way of communicating about inequalities but is only one of several options, each with their respective pros and cons. Different measures can lead to different conclusions about the degree of inequality and its change over time, making it crucial that we agree upon the way we’re all going to measure inequalities and stick to it. However we look at it, the sheer number of education indicators, and the numerous ways that inequalities can be measured, with all their various combinations, means that there are hundreds of ways of reporting on inequalities, which presents a challenge.

One way to approach this issue is to visualize inequality. In recent years, the GEM Report’s World Inequality Database on Education has helped bring disparities in education opportunities between and within countries to the attention of the wider public. This year’s update of new data on WIDE also presents a new visualization of the parity index among other features.

Another way is to prioritize selected indicators and characteristics. The future launch of the Inter-Agency Group on Education Inequality Indicators has chosen to look at three indicators: attendance, over-age attendance, and completion. It will then enable consistent analysis of survey data and pooling of untapped data sources for those indicators, and those alone.

However, monitoring inequality at the global level is not enough and cannot substitute for actions at the national level.

Many education ministries rely on their school censuses, which only enable a limited look at education disparities. There are national statistical agencies often producing highly relevant information on education inequality through household or labour force surveys. But in many countries, education ministries lack the capacity to understand and make use of the information.

This situation needs to change. The GEM Report urges better dialogue and cooperation between education ministries and national statistical agencies to monitor, report and act on education inequality. [Tweet]

  • Do we collect information from all marginalized and vulnerable groups?

Global comparisons of education disparities are currently possible only by sex, location and household wealth. The search for measures of other markers of disadvantage – notably disability, migration and displacement, language and ethnicity, citizenship status – needs to continue.

For example, the continuing neglect of mother-tongue-based multilingual education helps explain large disparities in education outcomes, as is shown by our WIDE database. By one measure, about 40% of people around the world lack access to instruction in a language they speak or understand. The GEM Report recommends that the international community put in place a mechanism to monitor language policy in education and its implementation. [Tweet]

  • Beyond parity, what broader aspects of equity in education can be measured?

It is important to remember that equity is not just limited to parity.

In the case of gender, for instance, the parity index addresses only one of several domains in gender equality in education. To improve monitoring of gender equality in education, efforts need to focus on other aspects — for example, collecting evidence on gender aspects of curricula, textbooks, assessments and teacher education — as the GEM Report Gender Review also argued.

iso-instagramMore generally, leaving no one behind will not be achieved solely by a proliferation of disparity measures. Data only get us so far in any discussion. There also needs to be a sustained effort to monitor the policies that countries are using to address inequalities in education, including policies outside education. The GEM Report believes that countries should be encouraged to collect and compare qualitative information on policies used to redress disadvantage in education [Tweet]. This will be best achieved in a regional framework where countries can learn by exchanging this information with their peers. Many inequalities in education are not easily altered, and tackling them will take concerted, comprehensive efforts in education and other sectors.

This is the sixth in a series of ten blogs on monitoring SDG4, which we hope will serve as a reminder of some of the challenges remaining, and as a call to join hands to address them. Join us over the next two weeks by direct tweeting some of our key recommendations from this blog series to members of the two groups finalising education indicators on our behalf.

View our growing list of SDG 4 Workshop presentations.

More published blogs in this series:

Target 4c – What is at stake for monitoring progress on teachers?

Target 4b – What is at stake for monitoring progress on scholarships?

Target 4a – What is at stake for monitoring progress on effective learning environments?

Target 4.7 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on education for global citizenship and sustainable development?

Target 4.6 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on adult literacy and numeracy?



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