Nationally representative surveys that ask education-related and individual background questions in comparable ways over time are crucial for monitoring equity in education globally. Yet, 41% of countries, representing 13% of the population, have either not carried out a household survey or have not made their data publicly available since 2015.
The Caribbean is one of the subregions with the lowest survey coverage rates, the GEM Report reminded participants at an event in the region last week. As we showed in the latest GEM Regional Report for Latin America and the Caribbean, only 4 of 22 countries had a publicly available survey in this period: Belize (2015–16 Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey, MICS), the Dominican Republic (2018 National Continuous Labour Force Survey), Haiti (2016–17 Demographic and Health Survey) and Suriname (2018 MICS).
Since then, Cuba’s MICS has been completed and its data released, while the data of the Dominican Republic’s 2019 MICS are being processed. Plans for surveys in Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago have been put on hold due to COVID-19. The 2016 Barbados Survey of Living Conditions has also recently been made available through the ILO’s catalogue.
Disaggregated data would give greater visibility to those left behind in the region, whether because of gender, socio-economic status or disability. In Suriname, 42% of boys, compared to 59% of girls complete lower secondary school. In Belize, just 19% of the poorest compared to 74% of the richest completed upper secondary school in 2016. On average, 12- to 17-year-olds with disabilities were 10 percentage points less likely to attend school than those without disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago.
The small size of many island states in the Caribbean increases the fixed cost and difficulty of carrying out surveys on a frequent basis. Most Caribbean countries conduct labour force surveys, but as these tend to focus on the working-age population, aged 15 and up, they do not capture the education attendance of children. Furthermore, since the focus is on labour market outcomes, they do not always include education-related questions.
The Caribbean has also not participated widely in large-scale cross-national learning assessments. Only the Dominican Republic took part in the 2018 PISA. Trinidad and Tobago participated in PISA in 2009 and 2015. Aruba, Cuba and the Dominican Republic were included in the Fourth Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study, best known as ERCE 2019 after its Spanish acronym whose results are expected later this year.
The Caribbean countries, under the coordination of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), have worked towards improving data collection, harmonization and dissemination so as to better monitor the SDGs. The Baseline and Situational Analysis Report of the Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy published a year ago is an excellent regional effort, which also includes some disaggregation between urban and rural areas, that other regions could emulate. Since 2010, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States has also been developing a statistical digest on education and education policy (OECS, 2020). But more needs to be done to disaggregate many indicators in order to map progress towards leaving no one behind.
For instance, very little is known about intra-Caribbean migration or, especially, about the Venezuelan crisis, which has posed a new challenge to inclusion in education and society. At least 80,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees live in non-Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries such as Aruba, Curaçao, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago; in Aruba, they represent 15% of the population. Their presence stretches the capacity of the education systems. Better data will help inform the responses needed and address the needs of both the hosts and the recent arrivals.
What data we collect and how we collect them is critical factor to fulfil the commitment to achieving inclusion in education by 2030. This is also true of the Caribbean.