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Launch of the SDG 4 Data Digest: Tools to Improve Learning Globally

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The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is launching today, 3 December, the SDG 4 Data Digest 2018: Data to Nurture Learning, which demonstrates how data can contribute to improve learning, as ministers and policymakers gather at the Global Education Meeting in Brussels to take stock of progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on quality education for all .

Inequality in education is high on the agenda in Brussels but, as the UIS points out, it cannot be tackled without robust monitoring to track whether children, adolescents and adults are gaining the skills they need. This monitoring is vital, given that six out of ten children and adolescents worldwide are still unable to read a simple sentence or handle a basic mathematics calculation, according to UIS data.

“Inequality lies at the heart of the global learning crisis that stunts the lives of 617 million children and adolescents,” says Silvia Montoya, UIS Director. “Inequalities in learning are seen and felt not only at the individual level but across countries and communities, with entire societies held back by poor education and skills gaps.”

The Digest is blunt about the scale of the task ahead. One-third of the children and adolescents without basic literacy and numeracy skills are out of school and urgently need access to the education that is their right. But two-thirds of these children and adolescents are actually in school.

“Far from being hidden away or hard to reach, they are sitting in classrooms, in schools that are unable to provide them with the quality education they have been promised,” says Montoya. “That promise has been broken far too often.”

This matters, given the critical importance of learning for the achievement of all SDGs, from reducing poverty to tackling gender discrimination and building healthy, peaceful societies. The Digest voices concern about how these goals can be reached by the 2030 deadline if significant numbers of people continue to lack basic skills.

The Digest explores the internationally-comparable data needed to reduce inequalities and ensure the lifelong learning envisaged by SDG 4. It covers a wide range of assessment initiatives from early childhood education to adult literacy programmes. It also presents a series of tools to help countries make informed decisions about the types of assessments that will meet their specific needs, as well as guidance on participation in assessments and building the essential human capacity to improve learning outcomes through the effective use of data.

Making a strong case for investment in evaluation, the Digest argues for a shift in perspectives about the perceived costs of learning assessments by donors and governments. Participation in major international or regional assessments can cost each country roughly $500,000 every four years, which seems like a major expense for a smaller economy. However, it is minor when set against the overall cost of providing schooling, and the even greater economic consequences of inadequate education. The UIS estimates that solid data on learning to gauge whether approaches are working or whether reforms are needed could improve education spending efficiency by 5%, saving an average of $30 million per year in per country, which would pay for the cost assessments hundreds of times over.

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Clean Energy at Forefront of Fight Against Climate Change in Asia and Pacific

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The advancement of affordable and reliable clean energy is not only at the forefront of Asia and the Pacific’s development progress, it is also at the heart of the region’s development of resilient infrastructure and fight against climate change, participants at the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2019 heard today.

Co-hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United States Agency for International Development, and the Korea Energy Agency, with the support of the International Energy Agency as the Knowledge Partner, ACEF 2019 is being held from 18–21 June under the theme “Partnering for Impact.” In line with this theme, the event is highlighting the need to focus on collaborative partnerships, ideas, and efforts that have market potential, with the goal of delivering tangible clean energy impact across the Asia and Pacific region.

Some 1,300 people will attend the event, including many from the private sector involved in clean energy development, as well as academicians, officials from governments, and representatives from nongovernment organizations and multilateral development banks. ACEF began in 2006 as an annual event to provide a platform for discussion and collaboration in promoting clean energy in Asia and the Pacific.

ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao participated in the opening panel discussion featuring Co-founder and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute Mr. Amory Lovins and Global Strategic Development Advisor and Member of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment Ms. Fiza Farhan.

“A sustainable and secure energy supply remains essential as more than 350 million people still lack access to electricity in our developing member countries (DMCs). It is also a key part of the fight against climate change,” said Mr. Nakao. “People around the world are demanding affordable energy, clean air, and a more responsible approach to the environment. ACEF is a leading event in Asia and the Pacific that enables our DMCs and other participants to share their experiences and innovative ways to meet these critical demands.”

Through Strategy 2030, ADB has committed at least 75% of its operations to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts by 2030. Climate finance from ADB’s own resources will reach $80 billion for the period 2019–2030. Based on historical trends, ADB’s lending, equity, grants, and programs in support of renewable and energy efficiency could contribute significantly to this target.

ADB has also affirmed its commitment to advanced technologies in sustainable energy by launching its first innovation technology challenge, which will invite technology providers to submit proposals for grants from the High-Level Technology Fund which is supported by the Government of Japan to address energy related development challenges. This new modality aims to build partnerships with technology providers and accelerate innovative technology development and deployment in DMCs.

ACEF 2019 features five thematic tracks based on key elements of Strategy 2030: energy and livable cities; energy and water sustainability; energy and rural poverty alleviation; energy and innovative finance; and clean energy technologies. There will be 21 workshops focusing on a range of topics, including radical energy efficiency, hydro mini-grids, electric vehicles, the empowerment of women in the energy sector, renewable energy systems, the future of cooling, and the food–energy–water nexus.

ACEF 2019 will be limiting its carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits to offset the travel related emissions of all participants. The event will also be paperless, with all program materials to be made exclusively available on ACEF’s website and mobile app.

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Micro and Small Rural Entrepreneurs’ Access to Credit Enhanced by ADB

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Government of Sri Lanka, and the Regional Development Bank (RDB) today signed Loan and Guarantee Agreements to further assist Sri Lanka to provide affordable and accessible credit to rural micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the country. Under the financial agreements, ADB will provide a $50 million loan with sovereign guarantee from the Government of Sri Lanka.

“MSMEs have high growth potential, create more jobs, and over time, potentially increase the tax base at a quicker pace than larger enterprises,” said Ms. Sri Widowati, ADB Country Director in Sri Lanka. “Because of their distribution over the whole country, they also help reduce regional inequalities”.

Ms. Widowati signed the Guarantee Agreement on behalf of ADB while Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance, signed for the Government of Sri Lanka. In addition, a Loan Agreement was signed between ADB and RDB.

With only about 30% of Sri Lankan firms having sufficient access to bank loans and other capital, limited access to finance is a key barrier facing entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. These constraints are even greater for micro and small enterprises led by women or located in rural areas.

The project will not only directly fund $50 million of long-term financing through RDB to micro and small enterprises outside of Colombo, including women-led businesses, but will also be structured to provide RDB the additional regulatory capital that would leverage up to an additional $533 million of lending to MSMEs.

Implemented through the RDB, a state-owned bank whose mission is to strengthen the living standards of the rural population by providing affordable and accessible credit facilities; the bank’s unique business model and wider branch network across rural areas can effectively cater to rural small and micro enterprises that are mostly missed out by the private sector commercial banks.

Integral to the project is a technical assistance grant of $1 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, financed by the Government of Japan, to support RDB’s sustainable long-term growth. The TA will upgrade RDB’s business model and directly promote gender mainstreaming through trainings to about 500 women entrepreneurs.  

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Improved Skills and Job Opportunities for Youth in Maldives

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The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a $20 million financing to provide market relevant skills and increase employment opportunities for youth in Maldives.

Basic human development indicators are high in Maldives, with the adult literacy rate at 98.6 percent and life expectancy at 77.6 years. The new project will help the Government of Maldives accelerate human capital accumulation, increase employment opportunities for young people, promote equitable economic and social progress in the country, and fulfill the vision for a climate sensitive Blue Economy.

“The Maldivian youth hold the key to the country’s future prosperity,” said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “We are happy to partner with the Government to develop ‘A 21st Century Skills Development Strategy’ and test a diversified approach to skills and entrepreneurship that are responsive to the demand-led labor markets and the needs of the local population, particularly the most vulnerable groups.”

This project will also focus on improving female labor-force participation in Maldives by fostering new skills development, such as programming bootcamps to empower young women to pursue home-based work in ICT-related services.

Shobhana Sosale, Adja Mansora Dahourou, and Harsha Aturupane, Project Task Team Leaders from the World Bank highlighted that “Diversified skills and entrepreneurship development will help Maldivian youth to become more employable, harnessing their contribution to the development of the country and promoting the well-being of their communities. We hope that the project can contribute to setting up strong decentralized skills and entrepreneurship ecosystems for accountable, effective and responsive lifelong learning and opportunities for youth.”

The new Enhancing Employability and Resilience of Youth Project will be co-implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Economic Development along with island administrative councils, city councils, and women’s committees participating in the project. The total project cost is $20 million, including a $10 million grant and a $10 million credit from the International Development Association.

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