With the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaching, planning for a new development agenda, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is taking shape. Concurrently, as the world embraces the notion of sustainability and sustainable development, a technology revolution is upon us. It is rooted in the enormous streams of information routinely captured by computers and other digital means in our workplaces, homes and communities. The scope and implications of this ‘data revolution’ are being linked to the new developments goals and their corresponding ambitious targets. This blog asks whether a revolution is really required for us to be able to measure progress in the post-2015 education targets.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently asked an Independent Expert Advisory Group to make concrete recommendations for bringing about a data revolution in sustainable development. The EFA Global Monitoring Report, which has been monitoring education goals since 2002, participated in the recent public consultation run by this group. We took the view that, while ‘big data’ may be an exciting concept, we must remember that most countries are still grappling with the compilation of reliable, high quality data in education. Getting the basics right is critical, before we embark on grander mechanisms. Doing so would go a long way in helping the international community measure new global education targets post-2015. Here is what the GMR team contributed to three of the consultation’s key questions.
First, on the prospect of measuring progress of the sustainable development goal on education, two concerns come to mind. The first is the need for better information on early childhood development, learning outcomes, and skills for youth and adults, including literacy. Understandings of terms such as ‘skills’ and ‘literacy’ have evolved considerably from how they were defined at Dakar. Adult literacy is now viewed on a continuum, for instance, rather than a black and white classification of an adult being either literate or not. We must be sure that data for post-2015 targets follow suit. However, while some are suggesting over-hauling ways of collecting data, and bringing about a ‘revolution’ through technological means, our position is that better coordination between agencies in order to develop ways to measure these outcomes, and more money to implement these ideas, would bring about the changes needed to measure education progress post-2015.