The focus of the Education for All programme on the number of out-of-school children provided the momentum to organize education management information systems and helped improve international data comparability. As a result, it became the flagship education indicator under the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. New policies in the decade that followed led to rapid increases in education access, which can also be credited to the attention paid to monitoring these efforts with a quantitative measure. However, already before the end of the decade, there were clear signs that the momentum was fading. The out-of-school rate appeared to remain stable after 2008 at the primary level, 2012 at the lower secondary level and 2013 at the upper secondary level.
One question was whether this trend was genuine or whether it might have been the artefact of measurement and data quality. For instance, while the primary adjusted net enrolment rate in sub-Saharan Africa based on administrative data, increased by just 3 percentage points in 10 years, from 76% in 2008 to 79% in 2018, the primary completion rate based on household survey data increased by 9 percentage points over the period, from 52% to 61% (UNESCO, 2020).
One explanation may be countries had gradually improved school system efficiency, ensuring that fewer children repeated classes and more children completed among those enrolled. But an alternative explanation that needed to be tested was whether the discrepancy was the consequence of persistent challenges in administrative data collection in some countries with large out-of-school populations, which prevented a more accurate, up-to-date picture from emerging. More data had been collected during this time from household surveys but such data has not yet been mainstreamed in official estimates.
The use of multiple sources was advocated by the United Nations in 2015, when it called for a data revolution. This paper summarizes results from an effort by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report to develop a model that makes more efficient and effective use of information from multiple sources to support SDG 4 monitoring (Box 1). The model adapts to education principles previously used to accommodate multiple data sources to estimate flagship health indicators, such as child and maternal mortality.
The results are available at the Visualizing Indicators of Education for the World (VIEW) website (www.education-estimates.org) and complement a similar recent effort that consolidated data sources to estimate a consistent time series of the completion rate. VIEW introduces the model and visualizes the results to help make the approach more accessible to countries. The graphs highlight trends but also the sources that enter into the calculation of national estimates.
As the model relies primarily on administrative data, the new estimates do not dramatically change the overall picture. However, the model offers some important nuances and helps fill some important gaps in our knowledge. First, the total out-of-school population is estimated to be 13 million or 5% lower than previous estimates based exclusively on administrative data.
Second, a different picture emerges with respect to the distribution of the out-of-school populations between the three age groups, both currently and over time. It suggests that the primary out-of-school rate has been declining faster than previously thought, even if the rate of decline has slowed down. Third, new information provides a fuller account of the contributions of some countries to the global out-of-school population for which administrative data have been incomplete or lacking. On the other hand, while the model improves our understanding of the past, it is not as sensitive to capture the recent impact of COVID-19 on enrolment, which will require more and sustained information over time to be properly assessed.
Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization