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Monitoring Education for All: Implications for comparative education. Nicholas Burnett and Aaron Benavot EFA Global Monitoring Report Team, UNESCO. Comparative and International Education Society, Honolulu, Hawaii, March 14, 2006. Overview of presentation.

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Monitoring Education for All:

Implications for comparative education

Nicholas Burnett and Aaron BenavotEFA Global Monitoring Report Team, UNESCO

Comparative and International Education Society, Honolulu, Hawaii, March 14, 2006

Overview of presentation
Overview of presentation

  • Rethinking the Comparative (conference theme)

  • Traditional purposes of comparative education

  • New purposes:

    a) monitor and evaluate progress toward international educational goals and targets

    b) distill policy implications from comparative research and in-depth case studies at international level

  • What lessons can be drawn from comparative analyses and assessments reported in the EFA Global Monitoring Reports?

  • Challenges, responsibilities and high stakes of comparative education research at the global level

Traditional and new purposes of comparative education
Traditional and new purposes of comparative education

  • Generalize about inter-relationships between educational change and major socioeconomic or political trends

  • Understand the historical origins and determinants of specific educational patterns

  • Understand how educational systems respond to external forces

  • Compare country performances according to standard criteria e.g. student achievement

  • Identify ‘successful’ national educational models to encourage emulation

  • Discuss ‘outlier’ cases as a way of exploring especially innovative educational systems

  • New: Assess country progress towards international educational goals

International targets in education
International Targets in Education

  • Early Targets:

    • compulsory school legislation (e.g. Bombay 1952, Cairo 1955, Lima 1956)

    • universal access to education (e.g. Karachi 1960, Addis Ababa 1961, Santiago 1962, Tripoli 1966)

  • Influence of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec1948):

    “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory...”

  • Education for All

    • Jomtien 1990

    • Dakar 2000

  • Millenium Development Goals 2000

Can goals make a difference
Can goals make a difference?

  • Help raise international awareness, create a sense of urgency and sustain stakeholder commitment

  • Encourage countries to accelerate action, initiate policy reform and prepare national plans

  • Create frameworks for additional funding and more focused technical support

  • Encourage standardized data gathering, and potentially increase capacity building

  • Important international policy goals have been achieved on or around their target dates: smallpox eradication, child immunization, fertility reduction

Problems with goal setting
Problems with goal setting

  • In education, almost all international goals and targets have been missed (Clemens 2004)

  • In some countries goal attainment and target setting become an end in themselves, rather than a means to other ends (Fielding 1999)

  • National priorities can be inappropriately reordered

  • Different conceptual meanings within and across countries are reduced, contested interpretations are ignored (Jansen 2005)

  • Becomes potential basis for international sanctions, reduced funding

  • Reinforces view that educational progress and educational outcomes are easy to measure and quantify

  • Can distort the daily, often invisible, work of teachers, who seek to improve the quality of pupil learning

  • Does not correspond to countries’ education sector plans and budgets but represents partial aspects of them.

EFA Global Monitoring Report: Origins

World Education Forum, 2000, Dakar,Senegal

  • 164 countries committed to achieve the six EFA goals by 2015, and one by 2005

  • Donors and NGOs pledged to support this effort: No country will lack the necessary resources

  • Governments called for regular monitoring of progress

  • Emphasized need to improve upon the scientific quality of previous evaluations of EFA

EFA Global Monitoring Report


Global monitoring report purposes
Global Monitoring Report: Purposes

An independent assessment, advocacy and reference tool that:

  • Charts progresstowards the six EFA goals

  • Monitorsinternational commitments to achieve EFA; holds the global community and donor agencies accountable

  • Compiles reliable and comparable quantitative and qualitativeevidenceto examine educationalprogress

  • Draws attention toemerging issues and challenges

  • Highlightseffective policies and strategies, using case studies and country comparisons

  • Provides abridgebetweenresearch & policy communities

Global monitoring report background and audiences
Global Monitoring Report: Background and audiences

  • Developed by an independent, multi-national and inter-disciplinary team based at UNESCO

  • Advised by an international editorial board with representatives from NGOs, international organizations, aid agencies, etc.

  • Funded by seven bilateral aid agencies and UNESCO

  • Informed by commissioned research papers, on-line consultations and literature reviews

  • Reports are translated into six UN languages; summaries translated into additional languages

  • Includes global, regional and national launches

  • CD-Rom produced as well as special tool to access statistical annexes

Audience: National policy-makers and planners, NGOs, civil society, advocacy groups, donor agencies, researchers, academics, and media

Global monitoring reports past and future
Global Monitoring Reports: Past and Future

  • 2002: EFA: Is the World on Track?

  • 2003/4: Gender and EFA: The Leap to Equality

  • 2005: EFA: The Quality Imperative

  • 2006: Literacy for Life

  • 2007: Early childhood care and education

  • 2008: Overall progress

Sources for comparative analysis in gmr
Sources for comparative analysis in GMR

  • Quantitative administrative data and qualitative descriptions of national education systems (UNESCO institutes, particularly UNESCO Institute of Statistics)

  • Commissioned literature reviews and research; draw on studies by international organizations, bilateral agencies and NGOs

  • Household survey data; international assessments of educational achievement; aid data from OECD-DAC

  • Official and national documents

  • Work with others on specific topics (e.g GCE on literacy programs, FTI on aid, UNICEF on out of school, World Bank on fees, etc)

  • Conducts small surveys of aid agencies

Key strands in gmr monitoring

Key strands in GMR monitoring

RIGHTS: Assume access to quality education and literacy are fundamental rights

DEVELOPMENT: personal, social, political, cultural and economic

Strong gender perspective

Map global challenges

Seek to identify major determinants of educational progress

Identify effective national reform strategies

Discuss what makes for good practice

Evidence-based and comparative approach


Challenges in monitoring efa goals
Challenges in monitoring EFA goals

  • Contested conceptual understandings of key concepts (e.g. educational quality, literacy)

  • Simplifying complex issues to common denominators

  • Problematic cross-national comparisons (eg, ECCE, non-formal education)

  • Gaps in data supplied by countries; time lag in data availability

  • Weakness of financial data

  • Little availability of sub-national data

  • Continued debate over the definition, interpretation and meaning of goals in addition to determining appropriate & valid indicators (goal 3)

Goal 1 early childhood care and education
Goal 1: Early childhood care and education

“Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children”

  • Monitoring the ECCE goal is limited to institutional data on pre-primary enrolments (ISCED-0)

  • Enrolment-based measures do not capture intent of goal 1; also pre-primary frameworks vary significantly: see 2007 GMR

  • The gross enrolment ratio in pre-primary education in the majority of countries is below 50%

  • Children from disadvantaged backgrounds more likely to be excluded

  • Attendance rates considerably higher for urban children than those living in rural areas

Goal 2: Universal primary education

Progress towards UPE

“Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality”

  • 47 countries have achieved UPE, 20 on track to achieve it by 2015

  • 44 countries making good progress but may not achieve UPE by 2015

  • Significant enrolment increases in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia

  • Progress in countries with very low indicators

  • Fees charged in 89 countries are major barrier to progress

  • HIV/AIDS impact on education systems

  • Substantial increases in school-age population expected in Africa, South and West Asia and the Arab States

  • 23 countries at risk of not achieving UPE by 2015, due to declining net enrolment ratios

Goal 2 where are out of primary school children
Goal 2: Where are out of primary school children?

About100 millionchildren still not enrolled in primary schools –

70% in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia

Out-of-primary school children by region (in millions), 2002

Goal 3 4 equitable learning opportunities
Goal 3/4: Equitable learning opportunities

“(3) Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes;(4) Achieving…equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults”

  • Learning needs of adults and young people at the center of this goal

  • Also goals for a second chance at learning (and learning to live in society?)

  • Mainly Non-Formal, but can be integrated into formal education

  • Some possible examples: life skills programs, adult basic education, lifelong learning, livelihood skills, skills for work, vocational skills?

  • Challenge to develop monitoring instruments that (a) reflect the diversity of non-formal learning; (b) assess equitable access.

Goal 4 literacy and adult learning

Gender parity index (F/M), 2002

Gender parity

Goal 4: Literacy and adult learning

“Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women…”

  • 771 million adults without literacy skills,

  • 75% live in 12 countries, 64% are women

Literacy: major trends

Patterns of literacy from 1970 to 2000 show an increase in adult literacy rates. Among the 15-24 age group, these rates are consistently higher

Adult literacy rates are not increasing as rapidly as in the 1970s

Changing methods for assessing and monitoring literacy
Changing methods for assessing and monitoring literacy

  • CONVENTIONAL: indirect assessments, mainly from censuses, based on self-assessments, head of household reports or years of schooling

  • DIRECT: ask respondents to read or write a simple sentence

  • Several countries (eg. Brazil, Botswana, China, Lao PDR, Morocco, U.R. Tanzania) have conducted direct assessments. They show that individuals overestimate their literacy skills

  • Direct assessments suggest that the global literacy challenge is much greater than assumed

  • Further issue of continuum of literacy rather than dichotomous literate/illiterate (e.g. IALS).

  • Issue of the literate environment

Goal 5 gender parity

Gender parity index (F/M), 2002


Gender parity







Latin America/


Central /


Arab States

Sub-Saharan Africa

N. America/ W. Europe



East Asia/


Central Asia



Goal 5: Gender Parity

“Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015…”

  • Considerable progress in countries with lowest gender parity index

  • 94 countries will miss 2005 gender parity target

Global assessment of gender parity













Global assessment of gender parity




Achieved in 2002

Likely to be achieved in 2005

Likely to be achieved in 2015

At risk of not achieving by 2015


The changing meaning of gender parity
The changing meaning of gender parity

  • Initial focus on increasing access of girls to primary and secondary education

  • Actual cross-national evidence at primary and secondary levels reflects different gender disparities:

    • At primary levelin over 60 countries gender disparities are nearly always at the expense ofgirls

    • At secondary level, however, boysunder-represented in 56 countries

  • Danger this can dilute attention to girls?

  • Goal also calls for gender equality – how to monitor?

Goal 6 education quality
Goal 6: Education quality

“Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills”

  • Weak literacy retention: In many low-income countries more than one-third of children have limited reading skills even after 4-6 years of schooling

  • High drop-out rates:in 41 out of 133 countries with data, less than two-thirds of primary school pupils reach the last grade

  • Large classrooms:pupil-teacher ratios on the rise in countries where education has expanded rapidly

  • Lack of teacher trainingandpoor teaching conditionshinder learning in many low-income countries

  • Insufficient instructional time:few countries reach recommended 850-1,000 yearly hours

Quality of learning
Quality of learning

Poor learning outcomes remain a concern in many countries. Lack of school books is one reflection of impoverished learning environments

Percentage of Grade 6 pupils in African classrooms where there are no books available, 2000

Quality trained teachers in demand
Quality: trained teachers in demand

The number of additional teachers needed to increase gross enrolment ratios to 100% and to achieve a 40:1 pupil-teacher ratio is probably unreachable in several countries

Can educational quality be measured
Can educational quality be measured?

  • Need to map and evaluate national learning assessments, as well as international ones

  • Snapshots of what actually occurs in classrooms

  • More evaluation studies of pedagogy, curriculum and teaching methods

  • More studies of long-term impact of learning

  • Conditions for literacy and numeracy retention – issue of the literate environment

  • Tendency to use proxies (e.g. number of years completed)

Assessing overall progress the edi







less than 0.80

The EFA Development Index covers 123 countries and incorporates the four most “quantifiable” EFA goals: universal primary education; quality (survival to grade 5); gender parity (primary, secondary, adult literacy) and the adult literacy rate

Assessing overall progress: the EDI

Countries have achieved the goals or are close to doing so

Countries in intermediate position

In these countries, quality of education is an issue, especially in Latin America. In the Arab States, low adult literacy is stalling progress.

Countries far from meeting the goals, including 16 in sub-Saharan Africa

Are composite indices a good method for monitoring country progress
Are composite indices a good method for monitoring country progress?


  • Attract attention, especially of governments and mass media

  • Underline holistic nature of EFA goals


  • Weighting of index components not scientific

  • Does not easily capture national policy changes

  • Less country coverage compared to goal-by-goal analysis, and so incomplete global picture

  • Oversimplification of the world?

Monitoring aid to education

Data Issues progress?

DAC requirements

Commitments versus flows


How to allocate budget support?

Analytical Issues

Determining gaps



Assessing aid dependence:


Policy influence

Donor or country perspective?

Monitoring Aid to Education

The aid gap

Billions of US$ progress?

Funding gap

Required to achieve UPE and gender

G8 pledge


Total aid

$2.1 billion


The aid gap

‘No country in need should be denied international assistance’

  • Aid to basic education should increase from 2.6% to 5% of total aid

  • Aid must be aligned more closely with educational needs

  • Long-term predictable aid is essential

  • The Fast Track Initiative received strong endorsement at G8. A step for harmonization but no significant aid increase

The shifting context for assessing efa
The shifting context for assessing EFA progress?

Big trends:

  • Globalisation and knowledge economies

  • Sustained economic growth in the South

  • Increased public spending on education

  • Promises of increased aid

  • Inequality worsening

Education under stress:

  • Over 30 civil conflicts, all in low-income countries

  • Natural disasters – Indian Ocean tsunami, Pakistan quake

  • HIV/AIDS: child orphans, teacher shortage and absenteeism

  • Fertility still high in regions with greatest EFA challenge

  • Rapid expansion of secondary education

Expanding secondary education
Expanding secondary education progress?

The number of secondary school students has risen four times faster than that of primary school students since 1998

How does the gmr have an impact
How does the GMR have an impact? progress?

Ways the Report influences on-going national and international debates

  • Media coverage: on average in 70 countries each year

  • Policy seminars in numerous countries attended by education ministers, senior policymakers, NGOs, civil society groups and multilateral agencies

  • Demand for special language versions: summaries in Bangla, Nepalese, Portuguese, Khmer, Hindi and Vietnamese

  • Website activity: 10 fold increase in number of visitors and pages viewed over three years

Are international educational goals and monitoring necessary
Are international educational goals and monitoring necessary?

  • Would the movement to universal quality education be noticeably different, in the absence of the EFA goals?

  • If EFA goals remained, but no GMR (or independent monitoring mechanism), what then?

Some conclusions
Some Conclusions necessary?

  • Monitoring international goals in education is a high stakes activity

  • Accessing broad institutional resources and trans-national networks requires careful analysis

  • Synthesizing comparative research at global level carries strong policy messages, especially in developing countries

  • Policy recommendations must be attentive to varying contexts

Thank you
Thank you… necessary?

For more information, visit web site:

Contact: EFA Global Monitoring Report team


7, place de Fontenoy

75352 Paris 07 FRANCE

E-mail: or

Fax: (+33) 1 45 68 56 41