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12 Jan 2015

The Challenge of Monitoring the Post-2015 Education Goals and Targets By Aaron Benavot

By Aaron Benavot, Global Monitoring Report team, c/o UNESCO, Paris.

The recognition of mutuality and interdependence drives much of the post-2015 development vision. Rather than an agenda dictated by rich countries to poor or conflict-affected countries, the post-2015 agenda is based on principles of universality. The goals, and the role that each nation plays in achieving them, are meant to be shared.

Synergy across different development sectors is the order of the day. Rather than advocating for separate policies in poverty reduction, environmental protection or gender empowerment, an overarching framework is being pursued to address the global challenges of the 21st century. In the case of education, the parallel Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) processes are being forged into a more coherent and aligned strategy, one with the overarching goal of inclusive, equitable and quality education and lifelong learning for all.

Such an integrated strategy makes sense.  However, one should not understate the obstacles—financial, political and otherwise—that countries and the international community face in putting this strategy into practice. Monitoring the post-2015 education agenda will be one of these challenges. The preceding monitoring framework of the MDGs was slow to be implemented; not until 2005 were the first monitoring reports published, which provided a concise record of progress towards each MDG target.

A delay in developing a new monitoring framework would have deleterious consequences. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda will need guidance from on-going monitoring and evaluation just as much as it will need clarity from the charge of its initial vision. A lack of assessment, exchange and critical reflection over any length of time would thwart implementation and collaboration.

Of equal importance to timing is the form and shape of monitoring. Here, there is a useful precedent. The EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) received its mandate from the Dakar Framework for Action in 2000 to monitor progress of the six EFA goals and education-related MDGs. Launched in 2002, the GMRs have monitored progress, analysed policies and promoted informed dialogue among members of the international education community and high-level EFA coordination groups—all based on the latest evidence from a range of sources.

Given the broad scope of the post-2015 development agenda, a document of the considerable breadth and depth is needed.  The document should be informative enough for high level policy makers from different sectors; of sufficient clarity and expertise to animate the exchanges of government officials, donors, NGOs and development agencies in education; and thoroughly comprehensive to cover links with other aspects of the SDG agenda.

Such a report will share some characteristics of its predecessor, but the operation should also evolve. One distinct advantage of the GMR was its editorial independence; this principle should be upheld. The Report’s new remit will necessarily change because its readership will have expanded in terms of geographical coverage and sector focus. For more universal and cross-sector relevance, the report will need to renew its analysis and reporting of global education issues in ways that appeal to this wider constituency. For example, the monitoring of equity is a shared and unifying concern across development sectors and will be prominent in a new report. Measuring gender parity at all levels of a national education system is a key aspect of gender equality, a separate SDG goal. A post-2015 report will also need to examine how different types of education contribute to, and are affected by, other development sectors. It will also need to identify indicators that link education and other development priorities.

Clearly, a post-2015 report must expand its monitoring capacity to another level. The proposed SDG education goal and targets are broader in scope and ambition than the Dakar EFA framework. Anchored by the concept of lifelong learning, the new education agenda includes more education levels; different modalities—formal and non-formal, state and non-state provision—and new content and ideas, some of which have yet to be fully developed. As processes and mechanisms are put into operation to address wider targets and broader concepts (some contested), they will require new measurement metrics and monitoring tools, to be addressed in new ways.

A question remains about the mandate of a newly constituted global monitoring report of education. A post-2015 monitoring report should be clearly linked to the SDG agenda in the same way the post-2000 GMR was related to the EFA agenda. The mandate for the GMR derived from decisions made at the World Education Forum in Dakar. Who will re-envision and give the charge for future global education monitoring?  The May 2015 EFA meeting in Incheon, Korea will certainly address this issue; so, too, should the United Nations’ General Assembly in September of 2015. With donor support and a new mandate, the post-2015 report team can coordinate actions among stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition from the former to a new education monitoring model.

It is an exciting moment to observe and to participate in these transitions. I hope that the international development community will recognize the ways in which the education sector, through the GMR, has provided a sound, useful and effective model of monitoring. It is a model worth reproducing in other development sectors because of its flexibility, research base, independence and careful balance of evidence with advocacy (achievements recognized in successive external evaluations). Indeed, the international education community should offer the GMR as an exemplar for addressing the challenges of monitoring the post-2015 sustainable development goals.

Aaron Benavot is Director of the Education For All Global Monitoring Report team, c/o UNESCO, Paris. Email:

This blog first appeared as an article in NORRAG News (NN) 51 ‘Education and skills post-2015 and the global governance of education: Agendas and architecture’ (December 2014)

>> See full issue of NN51

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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