Ensuring the Next Generation are Global Citizens and Stewards of Sustainable Development: Why Monitoring SDG 4.7 is Essential

By Andrés Sandoval-Hernández, University of Bath, and Diego Carrasco, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there was not much discussion about how these goals were going to be measured. As we enter the Decade of Action, deciding on a measurement strategy for all SDGs and their targets has become a pressing issue.

We live in very challenging times. The rapid influx of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, along with increasing intolerance, social exclusion and feelings of alienation, extremism among young people, and the ongoing climate crisis, pose complex challenges. To face this global environment, we need information that enables us to think critically, connect our actions with their impacts, and act as empowered, active global citizens.

When looking specifically at SDG 4 for education, Target 4.7 asks Member States to “ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”

Today, the 60th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education, we are reminded more than ever of the values of inclusion embodied in this target. While we say no to discrimination in education, let us say yes to inclusivity, respect for our differences and the right of all children to a quality education.

In this blog post we describe a recently developed strategy for assessing two indicators that embody tolerance, respect and sustainable development:

Indicator 4.7.4: Percentage of students by age group (or education level) showing adequate understanding of issues relating to global citizenship and sustainability.

Indicator 4.7.5: Percentage of 15-year-old students showing proficiency in knowledge of environmental science and geoscience.

Indicators 4.7.4 and 4.7.5 speak to empowering and enabling students to be active agents of positive change, while taking action to meet the other goals.

Using UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) data, we are preparing an open-source, robust and easy-to-use document containing detailed technical guidelines for countries and other interested parties to collect the data necessary to produce the scales we discuss below.

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Prepared for the Future: A New Indicator That Combines Completion with Learning

By Silvia Montoya, Director, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and Manos Antoninis, Director, Global Education Monitoring Report

New global indicator will provide a simple, comprehensive measure of progress towards the education goal, SDG4.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) for education recognizes that all children deserve, and have the right to, a quality education. Over the last three decades, enrollment has risen to historic highs, though school disruptions and the economic implications of COVID-19 will offset some of these gains. But enrollment is only a part of what children need. For children to be fully prepared for the future, they need to complete their education, and emerge having learnt at least the basics. The new global indicator will combine all these critical factors to provide a snapshot of progress towards SDG 4.

Completing and learning are critical elements of a quality education

Unfortunately, in some of the poorest regions where children are most in need of a high-quality education to get ahead, poor learning outcomes often result in higher drop-out rates with large numbers of children not completing school at all – or completing it when more than five years older than the intended graduation age for that level. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where 82% of primary aged children are enrolled in school at the right grade for their age, just 62% graduate from this level on time. When children don’t finish school, it is hard, if not impossible, for any more learning to happen.

Even where education is free, poor families still pay for books and uniforms, and there is the perceived “opportunity cost” of lost income or help with household chores, while children are in school. If parents don’t see a pay-off from their investment in education, children can be pulled out of school before completing a level, or when transitioning between levels, from say, primary school, to lower secondary.

Introducing the new indicator: Prepared for the Future

To underline the need for countries to prioritize school completion, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), working through the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), is proposing a new, holistic, indicator that will track both completion and learning combined. The aim is to ensure that global leaders and education policy makers have the evidence they need to zero in on where they stand on their SDG 4 commitments. With ten targets and 42 indicators in the monitoring framework for SDG 4, some might argue that it is hard to quickly grasp where countries stand in their progress towards the goal. With so many touch-points, it risks calls for change being watered down. This new indicator will hopefully answer these concerns, providing a simple rallying reference point for all education actors to lobby for improvement, ensuring all children are prepared for the future.

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The Un-sung Heroes of the Quest for Good Data: National Statistical Offices and Ministries

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Around the world, national statistical offices (NSOs) and line ministries involved in data collection and production are throwing their energies into efforts to track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). National statistical systems in developing countries – often under-resourced, under-staffed and under pressure – already achieve miracles with the limited tools at their disposal. Now they are being pushed even harder, with the SDGs calling for more and better data for a wider range of development issues. Continue reading