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Aurora Institute

UN Considers Proposal on Goals and Indicators for Educational System Outcomes and Equity

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Design for Educational Equity

Today, the United Nations (UN) opens the 71st General Assembly. United Nations

If you are interested in education systems and policy, you might find it worthwhile to take a look at this 20-page report under review at the UN.

I think this report on measuring educational outcomes and equity from UNESCO is quite ground-breaking for the breadth and approaches toward identifying indicators for educational outcomes.

The title is: Thematic Indicators to Monitor the Education 2030 Agenda: Technical Advisory Group Proposal

The report provides specific indicators linked to goals to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

This report puts forward a small set of reporting indicators for the monitoring of education systems globally using the proposed 17 goals and 169 targets.  This year, the UN General Assembly will be reviewing the recommended indicators for final adoption.

The report begins:

“In 2013 the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was given the mandate by UNESCO to review and recommend indicators that can be used to track global progress in the implementation of the post-2015 education agenda, now known as Education 2030. This paper is the result of 18 months of developmental work and extensive consultation with stakeholders. It proposes thematic indicators to measure global progress towards the achievement of the 7+3 education targets that have been adopted by UN Member States as part of the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

The selection of indicators for tracking the Education 2030 targets was guided by an agreed set of criteria and aimed to meet specific demands. In keeping with its mandate, the TAG concentrated on indicators which provide comparable information across countries. The TAG envisions global and thematic tracking as part of a broader and more contextually-sensitive monitoring system that will be designed by countries and regions as part of their implementation of Education 2030. It is not possible to fully measure the breadth and vision behind the goal and targets with available indicators. Therefore, the TAG has proposed an initial set of indicators based on data availability, relevance and feasibility as an intermediate step toward a comprehensive data and measurement agenda for education, which will require further coordination, technical capacity and extensive development and investment to achieve.”

Interesting points to note while reading the report…

They underscore the importance to focus on indicators that highlight outcomes as well as the progress being made toward outcomes:

  • Greater emphasis was given to input and process indicators which were added to those measuring outcomes. This is in response to comments expressing the need for indicators that are critical to understanding progress towards outcomes.

For measuring equity:

  • The education community should consider the use of inequality measures to capture differences between population groups (e.g. an absolute gap measure, a relative parity index, access to educational opportunities, courses, etc.). Their application should be based on an examination of the relative merits of different inequality indicators.

Developing a shared understanding of competencies for what a student knows and can do at each level of primary and secondary education is very important:

  • In order to monitor the success of the post-2015 agenda, it is necessary to develop a shared understanding of what competencies children and adolescents need to possess at the end of each education level using an international standard.

How are we defining performance levels (for each educational level in primary and secondary education)?

There is a focus on whole child and citizenship:

  • Finally, education for sustainable development (ESD) and global citizenship education (GCED) are new territory for comparable indicators and different approaches. At the level of measuring knowledge, there is consensus that progress in the acquisition of knowledge and skills related to sustainable development and global citizenship needs to be monitored, even if it is not linked to changes in attitudes and behaviors.

The Education 2030 framework describes a call-to-action on educational outcomes and equity that includes a recommendation to: “Develop more robust, comprehensive assessment systems to assess learning outcomes at critical points, including during and at the end of primary and lower secondary education, reflecting both cognitive and non-cognitive skills. These should include assessment of foundational reading, writing and numeracy skills as well as non-cognitive skills. Design formative assessments as an integral part of the teaching and learning process at all levels, with a direct link to pedagogy.”

How does this connect with current policy in the United States? With the new federal law passed in December 2015, The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaces No Child Left Behind.  As states consider new opportunities to transform education to student-centered learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act, this research from UNESCO provides a chance to connect with a global conversation on what it means to pursue and measure excellence and equity for students and focus on the whole child.

Finally, please allow me to express my gratitude to the Eisenhower Fellowship program for enhancing my understanding of global education and opening doors. The Eisenhower Fellowship provides connections with professionals across the globe to deepen impact and conduct research, interview experts, attend conferences, gain insights on our collective work on transformative educational policies and practices.

Susan Patrick is currently on a 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship studying education system transformation globally. Today, she is in Paris meeting with experts at UNESCO on Education 2030.

The Eisenhower Fellowship is changing the world, one leader at a time. The mission of the Eisenhower Fellowship program is to identify, empower and connect innovative leaders through a transformative fellowship experience and lifelong engagement in a global network of dynamic change agents committed to creating a world more peaceful, prosperous and just.

Links from UNESCO: