Visualizing Education Systems Around the World

Silvia Montoya, Director, UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Manos Antoninis, Director, Global Education Monitoring Report

The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) was established in the 1970s and updated in 1997 and 2011 to categorize information on education systems in a way that facilitates cross-national comparisons of education statistics. For all countries outside of the OECD and the European Union, these systems are now available in diagram form and in multiple languages thanks to joint work by the UIS and the GEM Report. As from today, they can be accessed at a new ISCED website hosted by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), and at the GEM Report’s PEER website of country profiles. ISCED diagrams for the OECD and the European Union countries are available on their respective websites.

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Disruptions to Schooling and the Need for Recovery

Silvia Montoya, Director UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Martin Gustafsson, Research on Socio-Economic Policy (ReSEP), University of Stellenbosch

The 2020 learning losses equal the gains made in the last 20 years

Some numbers to retain:

  1. In many developing countries the percentage of children considered proficient was increasing by two percentage points a year before COVID-19
  2. COVID-19 school disruptions have caused learning losses equal to all of the learning gains in the last two decades
  3. 101 million children and youth from Grades 1 to 8 will fall below the minimum proficiency level after 2020 [note]
  4. For each month of no or little contact between teacher and learner two months of learning were lost
  5. Recovery could occur by 2024, but only if exceptional efforts are devoted to the task through remedial and catch-up strategies

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Una mejor reconstrucción tras la COVID-19: La importancia de hacer un seguimiento de la desigualdad en el aprendizaje

João Pedro Azevedo, economista jefe, Education Global Practice, Grupo Banco Mundial y Silvia Montoya, Directora, Instituto de Estadística de la UNESCO (UIS)

La elección de un indicador determina nuestra comprensión del alcance y la naturaleza de un problema. En un blog reciente, explicamos por qué la medición de la pobreza en el aprendizaje es adecuada para monitorear el impacto de la COVID-19 en la educación. En este blog, analizamos dos conceptos adicionales: la brecha de la pobreza en el aprendizaje y la gravedad de la pobreza en el aprendizaje, para conocer la distribución de los afectados por la pobreza en el aprendizaje y medir cómo afectan estos cambios a la desigualdad en el aprendizaje. El UIS proporciona datos para ambos conceptos, así como para muchos indicadores clave del ODS 4. La última actualización de datos se produjo en marzo. El UIS también está recopilando información sobre la respuesta nacional frente a la COVID-19 en educación, equidad e inclusión.

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Building Back Better After COVID-19: The Importance of Tracking Learning Inequality

João Pedro Azevedo, Lead Economist, Education Global Practice, World Bank Group and Silvia Montoya, Director, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

Our choice of a measure shapes our understanding of the size and nature of a problem. In a recent blog we discuss why the learning poverty measure is well suited to monitor the educational impacts of COVID-19. In this blog, we discuss two complementary concepts: the learning poverty gap and learning poverty severity, to look at distributions among the learning poor and measure how these changes affect learning inequality. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the World Bank provide data for both of these concepts. Data for many key SDG 4 indicators were updated in the March data refresh. The UIS is also collecting data on the national response to COVID-19 on education, equity and inclusion.

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Cómo el marco del ODS 4.1.1 y la pobreza en el aprendizaje pueden ayudar a los países a dirigir su respuesta a la COVID-19 en materia de política educativa

João Pedro Azevedo, economista jefe, Education Global Practice, Grupo Banco Mundial y Silvia Montoya, Directora, Instituto de Estadística de la UNESCO (UIS)

La mayoría de los gobiernos y asociados para el desarrollo están trabajando en la identificación, protección y apoyo del aprendizaje de los miembros más vulnerables de la generación COVID-19. En este blog, analizamos cómo el marco del ODS 4.1.1 y el concepto de pobreza en el aprendizaje son herramientas útiles para ayudar a los países a entender y corregir los efectos de la COVID-19 en la escolarización y el aprendizaje.

Del nivel mínimo de competencias a una medición de la privación del aprendizaje

En octubre de 2018, la comunidad internacional acordó ser prudente en la utilización de un estándar global para el seguimiento del progreso en el aprendizaje de los estudiantes. El nivel mínimo de competencias (NMC)­ acordado a través de la Alianza Global para el Seguimiento del Aprendizaje (AGSA) ofrece un punto de referencia único para ayudar a los países y los asociados para el desarrollo a trabajar juntos para monitorear y mejorar el aprendizaje de aquellos estudiantes que se están quedando atrás. La pantalla de visualización interactiva que se muestra a continuación (Figura 1) permite explorar con el control deslizante los datos utilizados para monitorear este ODS, utilizando tanto el NMC de la AGSA como diferentes niveles mínimos de competencia.

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Comment le cadre de l’ODD 4.1.1 et le concept de pauvreté des apprentissages peuvent-ils aider les pays à orienter leur politique d’éducation en réponse à la COVID-19

João Pedro Azevedo, économiste principal, Pôle mondial d’expertise en éducation, Groupe de la Banque mondiale et Silvia Montoya, directrice, Institut de statistique de l’UNESCO (ISU)

La plupart des gouvernements et des partenaires de développement s’emploient à connaître, à protéger et à soutenir l’apprentissage des membres les plus vulnérables de la génération COVID-19. Dans ce blog, nous examinons de quelle manière le cadre de l’ODD 4.1.1 et le concept de pauvreté des apprentissages sont en mesure d’aider les pays à comprendre les impacts de la COVID-19 sur la scolarité et l’apprentissage, et à prendre les mesures appropriées pour les atténuer.

Du seuil minimal de compétences à la mesure de la pauvreté des apprentissages

En octobre 2018, la communauté internationale a convenu de réfléchir sur le suivi des progrès de l’apprentissage des élèves à l’aide d’une norme mondiale. Le Seuil Minimal de Compétences (SMC), approuvé par l’Alliance mondiale pour la mesure de l’apprentissage, fournit une valeur de référence incomparable pour aider les pays et les partenaires de développement à travailler de concert pour suivre et pour améliorer l’apprentissage des élèves qui ont du retard. La visualisation interactive ci-dessous (figure 1) vous permet d’explorer les données utilisées pour le suivi de cet ODD à l’aide du SMC-GAML et des différents seuils minimaux de compétence en déplaçant le curseur.

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Bridging CESA 16-25 and SDG 4: Using Regional Benchmarks to Meet Education Objectives

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and Daniel Capistrano, University College Dublin

This International Day of Education, the impact of COVID-19 on education is top of mind and finding solutions to revitalize learning is a priority, now more than ever. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is working with regional organizations and education partners to expand the global focus on benchmarking for the Sustainable Development Goals for education (SDG 4) so that regions and countries have more manageable, annual objectives.

With just a decade remaining to achieve SDG 4, it is imperative that all countries have the means to monitor progress and to plan necessary changes for the future. As the custodian of SDG 4 data and the lead agency providing internationally comparable and quality education data, the UIS has been working to help countries deal with this challenge.

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Using Household Surveys to Achieve the SDG 4 Objectives of Inclusivity and Equity

By Friedrich Huebler, Head of Education Standards and Methodology at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

It is not enough to simply collect data. Data that are useful for monitoring progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education must be of high quality and comparable across countries. But collecting the data across a wide range of indicators has strained the data collection capacity of many Member States. At the same time, additional reporting needs brought on by COVID-19 have added further pressure to produce data as evidence for remedial action once schools fully re-open.

As the custodian agency for SDG 4, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) works with countries to build their capacity to collect, produce and disseminate the data for monitoring progress towards international goals and for designing appropriate interventions, all while trying to mitigate the demands that this entails.

With this in mind, today the UIS is launching the 2020 SDG 4 Data Digest. This year, the Data Digest focuses on using household surveys to improve the scope of data collection while filling some of the gaps in administrative data.

To do this, the Data Digest explains the need for more and better data, serving as a “how-to” manual for ministries of education, national statistical offices and other education sector stakeholders. Readers will find information on everything from planning and design considerations for a household survey, to tips for writing compelling and effective questions, an interviewer’s check list of do’s and don’ts, the pros and cons of various modes of survey administration, along with implementation details like the most appropriate kind of field materials. The Data Digest also makes suggestions on how to communicate data findings.

In short, the 2020 SDG 4 Data Digest is the go-to source for a succinct overview of creating and implementing a household survey.

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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.

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Rethinking School Infrastructure During a Global Health Crisis

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

After more than 6 months since the beginning of national lockdowns and school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening schools is necessary and essential. Interruptions to classroom-based instructions have widened existing inequalities for vulnerable populations and reduced access to learning for a large fraction of the world’s children and youth. The longer schools remain closed, the more likely disadvantaged children are at risk of dropping out of school completely. Before the pandemic, children from the poorest households were already almost five times more likely to be out of primary school than their richer counterparts.

Proper infrastructure lacking to prevent the spread of COVID-19

As countries start to rethink how to address school openings, new national risk mitigation measures and public health regulations need to be considered within the school’s physical space. Children’s role in transmitting the coronavirus is still uncertain, and younger children are less likely to be sensitive or respectful of strict measures. As such, few schools are prepared to reopen in a way that can protect children, teachers and other school staff. Two of the most important measures cited by global health authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – namely, frequent and proper hand washing (using soap and water) and social distancing – are highly dependent on the existing physical infrastructure.

COVID-19-related hygiene and social distancing norms in schools are unearthing a range of systemic problems with infrastructure in schools across the world. From European schools in densely-populated urban areas to rural remote village schools in the mountains of north-eastern Cambodia, schools are facing a wide range of challenges in their provision of adequately protective COVID-19 environments. Inadequate physical conditions, such as water shortages, poor sanitation and small classrooms, are proving difficult to overcome in the short-term for an immediate response.

Almost half the schools in the world do not have access to basic handwashing facilities with soap and water while one-third are lacking in basic sanitation (i.e. improved facilities that are single-sex and usable at the school). Overall, schools in rural areas fare worse than those in urban areas while children at the pre-primary and primary levels have less access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities than those in higher education levels. Younger children are more likely to be vulnerable to WASH-related diseases, yet are at the right ages at which to establish foundational learning around health and hygiene. Thus, training young children, staff and family members is an essential component to establishing WASH services for a community.

Establishing adequate WASH facilities for vulnerable populations is crucial

Basic WASH facilities in schools are particularly important for WASH-vulnerable populations, including girls, persons with disabilities, children from poor households and children living in fragile contexts. Access to water and sanitation is not only a right in itself as established in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – and safeguarded by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – but it contributes to the realization of other child rights, such as health, nutrition and education. Girls require separate latrines as a fundamental part of their safety and healthy participation in life. Girls are more likely to enrol, attend and complete school if they have access to single-sex facilities, which are essential, particularly for menstrual hygiene management. Yet, this is only the case in 54% of the least developed countries, compared to 72% in Eastern and South-eastern Asia, 79% in in Central and Southern Asia and 81% in Latin America and the Caribbean (UIS database). According to World Bank ranked income levels, only 73% of lower middle income countries provide single-sex basic sanitation facilities to their female students, compared to the World average of 78% and 97% of high income countries.

In addition to WASH concerns, schools needs to consider the existing physical learning environment to safeguard social distancing norms. Adapting school norms to larger classrooms as a long-term response to the COVID-19 situation can also help establish quality learning environments in the long-term. There are no set international standards for classroom sizes or ratios, although norms and guidelines exist to provide guidance on better quality learning environments. In 2005, UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools Manual recommended a minimum 3.8 metres squared per child in early learning centres. Setting minimum spaces for children in higher education levels is more complex, however, and depends on the conditions of the local community (including projected population growth) as well as environmental and climatic conditions. In Rwanda, a minimum of one squared meter per pupil is considered adequate. One can also establish a basis for the overall classroom size, whereby child-friendly classrooms could reach a minimum of 100 square meters if playing areas and multi-activity classrooms are included. For example, the preschool square footage per student ratio is usually higher than for primary schools as younger children are less frequently required to sit still at their desks.

Global Education Coalition initiatives provides guidance

Changing or adapting infrastructure to meet the new demands, however, can prove an expensive enterprise for many countries. Indeed, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) provided more than one-fifth of its total COVID-19 response grants (USD 266 million) to programmes in 12 countries that prepared school facilities for reopenings in safe environments for children and teachers. The Global Education Coalition for COVID-19 Response – launched by UNESCO in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Food Programme and other United Nations agencies, international organizations, private sector and civil society representatives – developed the Framework for reopening schools. Reopening schools is composed of a three-step process (before, during and after reopening) and organised according to operational safety standards, learning practices, well-being and protection that reach out to the most marginalised populations (including girls). In addition to investing in WASH to mitigate virus transmission risks, the Framework aims to provide a holistic approach on safe operational procedures by including and training teachers and school staff in adhering to social distancing measures and adopting relevant hygiene practices. A more recent jointly developed update to proper procedures and checklists to consider prior to reopening is also now available.

Ensuring classrooms and materials are accessible and inclusive has been the cornerstone of quality learning environments, and such standards are well aligned with needs during the COVID-19 reopenings. For example, modular classrooms – where furniture can be moved, collapsed or put away – is already a recommendation in some national guidelines for classrooms. As children and projects evolve and change during the school year, spaces that are adaptive can reduce the density of students in the classroom as required by social distancing norms.

Some adopted measures can be detrimental to effective learning

Adaptations to small classroom spaces has been shown to provide less than ideal reopening environments in some countries. To maintain WHO-recommended distancing measures among students and teachers (minimum of 1 meter squared), many schools have limited the number of students returning to classrooms at the same time, thereby reducing effective classroom time for all students. In addition, WHO guidelines recommend several decision points with regards to school reopenings, with specific attention paid to local trends on COVID-19 cases. The guidelines in France, for example, adapted an approach that prioritised certain students (i.e. those of medical workers), followed by children from vulnerable families. Thus, the total amount of time returning to the classroom is a function of the strict social distancing requirements, the school’s physical infrastructure, teacher availability and children’s background.

As effective learning time is reduced for all students, a temporary response is to prioritise learning according to student needs. Limited time in the classroom can make teachers face more time-stress to meet the needs of national curricula and high-stakes examinations for certification or selection to the next education level. As part of the crisis-sensitive approach, education planners can reassess curricular objectives and transitions to upper education levels.

In 2015, the global community validated the importance of infrastructure to deliver quality education for all learners and teachers, regardless of background or disability status. The international standard noted in the Education 2030 Framework states that “Every learning environment should be accessible to all and have adequate resources and infrastructure to ensure reasonable class sizes and provide sanitation facilities.” Sanitation crises such as COVID-19 mark the urgency in reaching these goals and highlight existing concerns around poor learning environments. However, this moment can also serve as a catalyst to improve learning conditions and outcomes for all children.