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Towards new global literacy and numeracy indicators

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© UNESCO
7 November 2018

The fifth meeting of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), which is coordinated by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), was held in Hamburg on 17 and 18 October. Delegates, including representatives from more than 20 developing countries, shared progress and considered proposals regarding advancing measurement for those of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 targets and indicators focusing on learning outcomes (Targets 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.6 and 4.7).

Taskforce 4.6, co-led by the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning (UIL) and OECD, is responsible for developing proposals on  measurement frameworks to monitor progress towards SDG Target 4.6 on youth and adult literacy, in particular SDG indicator 4.6.1: ‘Percentage of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex’. 

While several national and cross-national measures focusing on adult literacy exist, the global indicator 4.6.1 poses new challenges. The comparability of the existing measures of literacy and numeracy used across countries may be challenging because of the diverse measures, different definitions of literacy and numeracy, and varying assessment instruments. Although several robust cross-national assessments are available for high- and upper-middle income countries, developing similar tools for all other countries remains challenging in relation to methodology, finance and capacities.

At his meeting, UIL presented proposals for global conceptual and content frameworks, reporting scales, and fixed minimum proficiency levels for both literacy and numeracy were developed by two institutional expert groups, established by UIL in collaboration with OECD. In addition to gobal comparable measurement and reporting frameworks, the experts also recommended the development of a long-term strategy involving the development of a core item pool for short literacy and numeracy assessment modules focused on lower proficiency levels, and allowing countries to add their own contextualized items.