Setting commitments: National SDG4 Benchmarks to Transform Education

Benchmark values define countries’ nationally determined contributions to the common education goal, using a concept embraced by the climate change sector. They enable the monitoring of progress to be context-specific, recognizing countries’ starting points and education sector plans, helping link their national education agendas with regional and global agendas. In 2021, two in three countries committed to 2025 and 2030 target values for at least some of the benchmark indicators.

This publication has three objectives. First, it describes the results of the follow-up to this process that was carried out between February and May 2022. It shows that 3 in 4 countries have now committed to 2025 and 2030 target values for at least some of the seven benchmark indicators. In addition, if the targets that other countries have committed in their national sector plans are also taken into account, then almost 9 in 10 countries have made a clear statement on their contribution to SDG 4. Unfortunately, these statements confirm that by 2030, even if countries succeed in their efforts, the world will fall short of the ambition to achieve universal education. For instance, it is estimated that that by 2030 there will still be 84 million children, adolescents and youth out of school – and only 1 in 6 countries will come close to having at least 95% of their youth completing secondary school. Less than two in three children are expected to complete primary school and achieve minimum learning proficiency by 2030, leaving 300 million without these skills.

Second, this publication proposes a way forward for monitoring progress towards the national SDG 4 benchmarks relative to each country’s starting point. Two approaches are considered: the first would monitor country progress towards the benchmark values they have set; the second would monitor country progress towards the rate that the 25% fastest-improving countries have achieved over the past 20 years. The latter approach is complementary to the first and addresses the concern that even countries starting from the same point may set benchmarks that vary considerably in their degree of ambition.

Third, as the purpose of the national SDG 4 benchmark setting process is to help accelerate progress towards the common education goal, 12 case studies present how the respective countries approached the challenge of setting benchmarks and how they linked them to their national strategies, plans and policies. Accompanied by graphs for each benchmark indicator, the case studies aim to help countries reflect on their own experience and continue addressing the process of setting targets, filling data gaps and developing appropriate policy responses.

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UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UNESCO-UIS)


Global Agendas - SDG, Education 2030, etc.