Tracking Progress against Sustainable Development Goal 4
As of 2013, 59 million children are still missing out on primary school—and not because they’re playing hooky. Although the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have prompted increases in primary school enrollment worldwide, gaps remain in achieving the right to education for all, particularly related to education quality and completion of secondary education. For youth entering the workforce, the gaps result in limited employable skills. Given current education trends, youth unemployment rates will continue to grow at critical rates.
Data from OECD, 2015
In response to national shortcomings to secure the right to education for all, RESULTS Educational Fund developed a participatory action research approach to monitor the right to education’s fulfillment. From 2013 to 2015, 90 civil society members from 30 countries representing 67 organizations met to discuss and consult on the development of a standardized Right to Education Index (RTEI).
RTEI is a global accountability initiative of RESULTS Educational Fund that aims to ensure that all people, no matter where they live, enjoy the right to a quality education. The index builds on international human rights law by monitoring national progress toward achieving the right to education. It reveals key areas for improvement by country, offers country-to-country comparisons, and tracks progress over time. Throughout ongoing Index development, civil society partners have provided feedback and recommendations based on their experience regarding indicators and proxy measures related to the satisfaction of the right to education.
Ultimately, RTEI seeks to:
- Strengthen the expertise and capacity of civil society and education advocates worldwide.
- Increase public and political support for realizing the right to education.
- Hold governments and institutions accountable for their commitments to the right to education.
- Uphold the right to education for every child and adult everywhere.
Through a macro-national questionnaire, RTEI civil society partner organizations identify how, and to what extent their government fulfills this right. RTEI includes country specific Index results, indicating how well individual countries respect, protect, and satisfy the right to education for their citizens. Like other index initiatives, such as the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Index and the Global Integrity Index, it pools systems information to reveal a contextual picture of the factors contributing to the challenge. Ultimately, it can drive political pressure and open public dialogue around a critical national development issue. The RTEI results range from 0, where the right to education is completely absent, to 100 percent, where the right to education is fully respected, protected, and fulfilled.
Implemented biennially, the questionnaire is adapted each year to integrate revisions from consultations with civil society members, policy makers, and academics. Through a growing advisory group, academics, civil society advocates, and policy makers are building RTEI as a research and advocacy tool. In 2016, civil society partners from 15 countries convened to complete the questionnaire and develop recommendations about national right to education fulfillment. Beyond research, civil society members use its data in national advocacy campaigns. In 2017, five partners are implementing national advocacy strategies. This cycle will continue as the Index expands in 2018 to collect data from 30 countries and supports more partners to implement advocacy in 2019.
Building international partnerships, expanding civil society capacity, and supporting direct advocacy, RTEI works to monitor implementation of SDG 4 — ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning — in national advocacy campaigns. For instance, this year, civil society partner, Teacher Creativity Center, located in Palestine, is holding national workshops on SDG 4 implementation, training other organizations’ staff on how to report on SDG 4 to the UN, and conducting research about SDG implementation to date to submit alongside national monitoring reports.
In Honduras, Foro Dakar hopes to design an electronic platform to monitor SDG 4 fulfillment. The national network will design data collection instruments and compile results on the Internet so that citizens, policy makers, and advocates, internationally and nationally, can observe progress towards SDG 4 and others.
RTEI partners use their national networks and partnerships to monitor and support implementation of the SDGs in innovative ways, from shadow reporting to online monitoring. As projects progress, policy makers will be engaged further to create dialogues between civil society, academia, and government.
As the private sector continues to explore solutions in education landscapes, RTEI can provide best practices in rights-based approaches and support private sector engagement that advances education as a public good. The private sector can support the right to education through national partnerships that enhance and build quality public education systems. Next steps for RTEI, beyond continued support for partner-led research and advocacy, will be to facilitate connections between key actors, recognizing and promoting the right to education for all.
Feature photo courtesy of GPE/Paul Martinez