NORRAG Blog Series: Missing Education Data

By Daniel Shephard

The Missing Education Data blog series is curated and edited by Daniel Shephard. Daniel is NORRAG’s Missing Data Project Lead, a Ph.D. Candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a 2021 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellow. 

NORRAG hosted the Inaugural Missing Education Data Summit on 30 November 2021 followed by regional and thematic expert consultations on 2 December 2021. The summit engaged 155 participants in discussions on conceptualizing and addressing gaps in the current education data regime and how such gaps contribute to marginalization. The discussions were informed by one global and four regional draft working papers by education data experts.

Over the next two months, this blog series will further explore six themes that emerged from the inaugural summit and its accompanying papers and expert consultations. The six themes are presented in summary form below.

  1. Global data coverage of SDG 4 has not improved since 2015

There has been a lack of progress in country coverage of data related to the SDG 4 targets since the beginning of Agenda 2030. This lack of improved coverage at the global level belies the fact that education data production at the national level has expanded. This contrast may suggest that the SDG 4 data agenda does not align with the data needs of countries.

  1. The data linked to SDG 4 are not used by countries

Multiple experts noted that countries do not make use of global indicators to inform education decision making. This suggests that the data which global actors are funding are not useful to the policymakers who must make difficult decisions about education system policies, programs, and priorities. This suggests the global education data regime is not serving local interests.

  1. The education data regime continues to marginalize learners outside of primary school

The legacy of previous global education policies that focused on primary school learners continues to be reflected in data-systems. This path dependency in the education data system continues to marginalize learners before, after, and outside of primary school. Furthermore, this primary-school focus is not aligned with the education priorities of supporting youth and early-age learners in many countries.

  1. The current data regime does not prioritize data disaggregation

The data disaggregation that would be necessary to inform policies that reduce marginalization continues to be de-prioritized. Existing data disaggregation that could inform policies for disadvantaged groups are either absent or insufficiently presented in global education databases. In addition, there are continued data gaps for learners who are marginalized by displacement, conflict, and disability due to a lack of conceptual clarity, logistical challenges, and low prioritization by organizations and governments.

  1. Lack of data use for accountability

While there has been a historic shift in the accessibility of education data, there is a still a lack of use of education data for accountability. Much of the education data that is generated is difficult to access and participants from Africa, the Arab States, and Asia noted that civil society often lacks the data literacy needed to use education data to hold education decision makers accountable and to lobby for changes. The absence of data-driven policy influencing by civil society risks ceding the role of policy-influencing to data producers at the risk of undermining the transparency, independence, and trustworthiness of data.

  1. Capacity limits on data use are due to budget constraints on staffing not knowledge gaps

Many countries do not lack know-how for the generation and use of education data, rather they lack the core budget to employ additional staff dedicated to work on education data, dissemination, and use. Therefore, countries have a need for additional staff and partnerships with local data experts—not more capacity building or training exercises by international organizations. One noteworthy exception to this is that when countries are encouraged to use external data solutions, they become increasingly reliant upon costly external consultants rather than local experts.

Call to action

NORRAG’s Missing Education Data Project will continue to engage the community of education researchers and policymakers to improve how we understand and address these themes and other gaps in the education data regime.

If you wish to submit a Blog post to the Missing Education Data blog series, submit a blog post directly to the Blog Series Editor, Daniel Shephard,, with the subject line “Blog Submission: Missing Education Data blog series”.

Find below the most recent posts in the Missing Education Data Blog Series

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