Given the UKSSD plan to promote the Sustainable Development Goals that I mentioned yesterday, it's a happy circumstance that sees the Office for National Statistics [ONS] publishing its first progress report on the Goals. This is available on the ONS website where there is a dedicated reporting platform. This uses a traffic light system to flag up data availability:
- Green – data reported on-line
- Amber – statistics in process of production
- Red – still exploring data sources
If you click on the green ones, graph axes pop up and more. Sometimes (but not always) the graphs even have data points on them. Try clicking ...
Indicator 4.1.1: Proportion of children and young people: (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex
... to see what I mean. I very quickly lost the desire to spend any time doing this. You might be made of sterner stuff.
However, to make any sense of this you need to know what the indicators of success are. These are set out here and used by the ONS. These are not the goals, or the targets, but the means by which we will know (possibly) how much progress (if any) is being made against the targets.
For example ...
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Target 4.1: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
Indicator 4.1.1: Proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex
The ONS will have ready access to data for this, although the target hardly seems a complete fit with the Goal which refers to life-long learning opportunities whereas the target doesn't – but more on all this later.
It's less clear that there will be ready data for other targets. For example (Goal 4 again):
Target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
Indicator 4.7.1: Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed at all levels in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment.
I pity the ONS's having to make sense of this – even if it ever gets the data. The problem of validity is immediately obvious (and this is not the only example). The target is about outcomes [ "learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development" ], whereas the indicator concerns process [ "mainstreamed at all levels" ]. The cause of this unfixable problem lies in the UN's anarchic drafting process.
ONS says that there are 232 global indicators which have been divided into tiers, depending on the existence of agreed standards or methods and the availability of data:
tier 1: indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50% of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant
tier 2: indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries
tier 3: no internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology or standards are being (or will be) developed or tested
It will be instructive to see how many tier 3 indicators actually get measured. You will note here the implication that tier 3 indicators may not be all that conceptually clear.