Council Commentary

The Test for TES: Data, Evidence, and Accountability

The Transforming Education Summit (TES) was an inspiring reminder of the energy and commitment of the global education community. It remains to be seen, however, whether TES was indeed transformative.

The resulting statements, initiatives, and calls-to-action are an essential articulation of goals and vision but will require significant resources and accountability to become true outcomes and outputs for transformative change.

Encouragingly, the SDG 4 High-level Steering Committee will lead accountability and follow up. They call for agreement on “a small number of indicators” related to the global initiatives to be added to SDG 4 benchmark indicators, with countries setting national targets for 2025 and 2030, and reviewing progress annually.

For this or any accountability mechanism to work we need to have accurate, disaggregated data, especially gender and poverty disaggregation. The data we have now is woefully inadequate, whether for learning outcomes, school violence, or educational resources. With the right data, we can make sure that we are reaching all children, better managing programs, tracking change at the level of the young person, and holding systems and actors accountable. 

Placing the burden of accountability on over-stretched national ministries in many low- and middle-income countries is insufficient and unfair. ​Donors, multilaterals, international NGOs, civil society organizations and the research community also need to be held to account.

The entire education ecosystem has considerable room for improvement. From the research community perspective, we need to do a far better job of listening to the questions that implementers and governments need answers to. We can also do a far better job of communicating evidence to make it accessible and understandable.

To make progress on these new global initiatives, we need evidence-based programs. Some initiatives have a strong initial evidence base to lean on, for example to improve learning. Yet the evidence on what works to achieve many other education goals articulated at TES is thin to nonexistent, including for gender-transformative education.

Yes, financial resources are needed to build the evidence base to understand what works, how, and for whom. But equally crucial will be researchers better coordinating and cooperating to share data, develop indicators, improve quality of data and evidence, disseminate findings, and the list goes on.

Moving forward together, we can further build and strengthen—rather than duplicate—the evidence, content, and infrastructure for global education.