Development of a new indicator for the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2020, NFER worked with UNESCO Institute for Statistics to develop a new indicator to measure one of the targets for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG 4) on Quality Education.  The target (4.7) is to ensure that all learners acquire a broad set of knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development and global citizenship by 2030.

The aim of the new indicator is to assess the extent to which countries are creating opportunities for children to develop a breadth of skills associated with Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development, such as creativity, collaboration, empathy and tolerance. These skills, often called 21st century skills, equip children and young people with the abilities to deal with complex issues that exist today, such as climate change and shifting employment patterns. 


Underpinning the new indicator is a conceptual and measurement framework developed by NFER. The framework considers the planned, implemented and experienced learning environments within three education themes at the different levels in the education system: system, school and classroom.

The education themes are:

  • Teaching and Learning - vision/curriculum, pedagogies, teacher training, policies and materials that support breadth of skills at the system, school and classroom levels
  • Assessment and Accountability - school accountability arrangements and students' assessments for monitoring and supporting breadth of skills
  • Enabling Environments - institutional arrangements, facilities, budget, policies and practices to support a positive learning environment and to support school engagement with the community

We designed three measurement tools to assess whether the different levels of an education system are providing sufficient opportunities for the development of a breadth of skills.

Government officials, school governors and teachers self-reported against a set of defined criteria, and were required to provide supporting evidence.  A key consideration in the tools’ development has been its practicality for countries, such as looking at evidence sources which are easy for countries to access.


We piloted the tools in Bhutan, Costa Rica and The Gambia in 2020 and the results were disseminated to members of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), a network of education measurement experts, leading on measurement of SDG 4.  GAML and the Sustainable Development Goal Technical Coordination Group have discussed the pilot and the tools have been approved for further development.

For further information on the pilot see the SDG 4.7.6 Breath of Skills Interim Pilot Report.