Harnessing learning data for SDG 4: Planners explain how

06 June 2023


Children at school in Utajo village, Rusinga island, Kenya.

A major question for educational planners is how to make better use of learning assessment data, to shape educational policies and monitor progress toward the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4). IIEP-UNESCO is actively engaged in this area, providing new research and training to strengthen the skills of education professionals in data analysis.

The latest course – how to use data to monitor progress for SDG 4 – wrapped up in April 2023. Over six weeks, 33 participants joined the course from ministries of education in 17 countries, non-governmental organizations, development partners, and planners involved in large-scale surveys to monitor education quality.

Participants from Burkina Faso, the United Arab Emirates, and Kenya have now shared how the course will impact their work and why it is so important to use learning assessment data to improve education policies and achieve SDG 4.

The issue is so important because it touches on the structuring of SDG 4, which is that by 2030 quality education should be available to all children and young people without distinction of any kind based on social origin, gender, living environment, or condition of disability.”
- Cheick Ouedraogo, from Burkina Faso

An innovative, participatory approach

The IIEP training embraced an innovative and participatory approach. Participants were involved in hands-on, interactive, and collaborative experiences that promoted exchanges between education professionals from different countries and educational contexts.

Wanjira Kinuthia, a participant from Kenya, said the intercultural exchange facilitated by the training allowed her to gain new perspectives: "Working in teams throughout the course provided me with many new insights. Notably, we came from different countries and diverse educational settings, and sharing experiences on how we use data to develop policy was very informative."

Fatema Alattar, another participant from the United Arab Emirates, said the practical aspect of the training allows her to apply theoretical knowledge in a concrete context: "It was very helpful to do this the practical way, analyze data and come up with a set of policy recommendations along with action plans. We learned from each other, and it was a great way to apply our theoretical knowledge."

To facilitate learning, the course offered a variety of educational resources and webinars, including one with the author of IIEP’s research project on using learning assessment data in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each module is introduced by videos that present a general overview of the knowledge to be acquired as well as the issues related to each module. I also note the richness of the resources provided, as well as the possibility to self-assess one's knowledge on the module through the quizzes offered."
- Cheick Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso

Participants also appreciated the online discussion forums, which allowed them to share their ideas, experiences, and reflections on issues related to the quality of education.

Group work was also organized, promoting collective learning and the sharing of good practices. In addition, specialists are invited to give presentations on specific topics related to the quality of education, providing participants with a broad and deep perspective on the challenges and opportunities in education.

Applying new knowledge

Fatema Alattar said that there is a myriad of data ready to be applied. The Learning Assessment Capacity Index score for her country – the UAE – indicates a high capacity for large-scale assessments.

The LACI score of the UAE is 4, which makes UAE's data-rich to be utilized effectively in planning education. The most important thing here is to be able to read those numbers, navigate through the data and grasp what matters, the gaps, and strengths, all of which now, I'm more confident to do."
- Fatema Alattar

Tailored to education system needs

The training was structured to provide participants with the essential skills to analyze learning assessment data and to develop education policies that are tailored to education systems and country contexts in a personalized manner.

This training allowed me to learn more about the structure of the PISA surveys and to learn about other types of assessments (TIMSS, PIRLS, LaNA, SEACMEQ, EGRA, EGMA, ERCE, PILNA, etc.) with their specificities, as well as those that may be appropriate for the education systems of sub-Saharan African countries that share more or less the same challenges."
- Cheick Ouedraogo

Expanding and improving data collection and use can help transform education and ensure that limited resources are used in the most efficient and equitable way to improve learning. However, to fully exploit the power of data and proactively plan for progress on SDG 4, capacity development is key.

IIEP continues to work in this area to support global efforts to ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all and to put in place sound education policies that meet the needs and aspirations of every learner.