The UK, the SDGs and the ONS

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

How's the UK doing in relation to the SDGs do you think?

I know this is not a question that is the discussion of the day in pubs or even in louche vegan wine bars in Camden, but it has been exercising my mind of late as I've been drafting (as part of a team working with UKSSD) a report on the current position with respect to the targets within SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.  This task has proved very difficult verging on the impossible – but more of that another day.

Happily (or unhappily depending on your point of view), the Office for National Statistics [ONS] has also been beavering away on this task (with rather more resources to hand than I have).  The difference between what ONS is doing, and what I have done, is that ONS is looking at indicators and I've been looking more widely at targets.  Of course, you can only say something sensible about targets by having indicators of one sort or another in your mind.  For SDG 4, there are 10 targets and 11 indicators, and you'll find these here and also here (if you want the authorised version).   Essentially, the indicators are one narrow aspect of what can be a wide-ranging target. As such, meeting an indicator can sill mean you miss much of the target (See Evaluation Studies 101).

Target 4.4 illustrates this problem:

By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

But Indicator 4.4.1 merely says:

Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill

You see the problem.  It's something I commented on last year.

The current ONS assessment is here.  ONS says:

"This is the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) first report on UK data gaps towards the 244 global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicators.  We currently report headline data for 114 global SDG indicators on our National Reporting Platform  (NRP).  We are still exploring data sources for 86 indicators, and 10 indicators are considered genuine data gaps, meaning there are no known data sources that will fill these gaps."

In relation to SDG 4, it says: "Goal 4 (Quality Education) has no headline data gaps. However, six of the eight indicators reported for this goal contain proxy data."  It adds that ...

"Reporting data for the whole of the UK can be challenging – as data are often not collected consistently across the four countries which means that the way devolved administrations (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) measure things like health and education might differ to how data are collected by UK Government for England."

Personally, I think there has to be a good case for 4 separate reporting streams on all this, given the devolved responsibilities for education and training.  But there won't be ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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