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05 Jun 2015

Building Consensus towards an Indicator Framework to Monitor Education Beyond 2015 By Albert Motivans

By Albert Motivans, UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

WEF logoA proposal for thematic indicators presented at the World Education Forum

At the World Education Forum (WEF) recently held in Incheon, Korea, the global education community came together to discuss goals and targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as a framework to monitor the education targets beyond 2015. They focused on an initial proposal, which includes a broad set of 42 indicators, developed by the Technical Advisory Group on Post-2015 indicators (TAG), which is chaired by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and includes experts from international agencies. This proposal, which was based on results from a public consultation involving Member States and a wide range of education stakeholders, was presented in the draft Framework for Action as well as in the more detailed TAG paper.

At the Forum, there was rich discussion on the proposed set of indicators and wider issues, such as:  support for countries to build the technical capacity required to collect and use key measures; greater efforts needed to capture the breadth of the targets, especially in areas such as education quality and equity as well areas which may fall outside of formal education (e.g., early childhood, skills and knowledge of youth and adults, etc.); and the need to minimize the potential unintended consequences of prioritising a small set of global indicators as part of UN processes.

Proposed global education indicators rated highly by national statistical offices

The work to develop thematic indicators also feeds into a broader UN process to define a small set of global indicators for the targets of the 17 SDGs (total of 100-120 indicators). In March, a technical report by the UN Statistical Commission reviewed recommendations submitted by international agencies for global indicators, which included a subset of education indicators which drew on the TAG recommendations. Representatives of national statistical offices then assessed them based on feasibility, suitability, and relevance.

National statisticians gave the proposed education indicators high scores, ranking them third best after indicators for health and energy targets. 67% of education indicators received the top grade in at least one of the three criteria. Nevertheless some of the proposed indicators were considered to be ambitious for global monitoring. It seems reasonable to expect that alternative indicators may be needed as consultations and efforts continue to develop more robust indicators over the next three to five years.

A country-led process – the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators

The UN Statistical Commission assessment and list of global indicators was recently submitted to the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), which was established by the UN Statistical Commission to develop a proposal for a global indicator framework for the entire post-2015 development agenda. This group is composed of experts from 28 Member States, elected by and representing different regions of the world. International and regional agencies are not members, but rather observers to the group. There is a separate High Level Group (HLG), consisting of 15-20 different Member States from the IAEG which will provide strategic leadership for the SDG implementation process with regard to monitoring and reporting as well as efforts to foster capacity-building, partnership and coordination. The terms of reference for the HLG and  the IAEG are available online.

The first meeting of the IAEG-SDGs took place from 1-2 June 2015 in New York, where the Philippines and Italy were elected as Co-Chairs. Most of the meeting was devoted to procedural matters and the sharing of information on current regional activities related to the selection of post-2015 indicators. After reviewing the UN Statistical Commission’s technical report on priority indicators, the delegates decided that the first step should be to develop a conceptual framework for sustainable development to allow for the systematic mapping of goals and targets and ultimately the selection of global indicators. National statistical offices felt this was a necessary and feasible next step despite the pressure to submit the proposal for global indicators by the end of November 2015. In the meeting, the group proposed to create two work streams open to all members: the first to develop the theoretical statistical framework and the second to explore interlinkages between targets and goals. If this proposal is accepted, the group is expected to work on both streams from June to September and will also draw on the technical expertise of international and regional agencies as well as academic, research and civil society experts, when appropriate. The group will convene a meeting in October in order to finalise its proposal for the global indicator framework.

Where do we go from here?

The track for thematic indicators has been laid out in the draft Framework for Action which will be further developed to produce a final document that will be submitted for adoption at a Ministerial meeting to be held at UNESCO in November 2015. In order to build consensus and further refine the existing indicator framework, the Technical Advisory Group will be extended to include representatives from Member States (two technical experts on education statistics from each of five regions) that are also members of the IAEG-SDG or HLG, described above, and technical experts from civil society organizations in addition to the current members from international agencies. The framework will be further aligned, if needed, as a result of changes to global indicators introduced through UN processes.

The track for global indicators started with the first IAEG-SDGs meeting. The IAEG will develop a proposal by November 2015 for submission to the UN Statistical Commission which meets in March 2016. The UN Statistical Commission will review the proposal and make its recommendation at a political level which is not yet defined, but could be the ECOSOC meeting in July 2016 or the UN General Assembly in September 2016.

The role of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics will be to maintain its observer status in the IAEG-SDGs while convening two meetings of the extended TAG between June and November 2015. The UIS will continue to serve as an essential bridge between the thematic and global streams of work.  In addition to the indicators for education, which cut across a number of SDG targets, the UIS is also leading efforts to define indicators in relation to other areas of the UNESCO mandate, namely science and technology in addition to culture and communication.

Albert Motivans heads the Education Indicators and Data Analysis (EIDA) Division of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Email:

This blog is based on a forthcoming article in NORRAG NEWS 52, Financing Education & Skills – available at in late June 2015.

Related blog:

>> Indicators for Universal Versus National Coverage of Goals and Targets, Abbie Raikes, UNESCO, Paris.


>>View all NORRAG Blogs on Sustainable Development Goals


NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.


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