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Unesco Institute for Statistics

About SDG 4 benchmarks

Progress Update

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in the Education 2030 Framework for Action, called on countries to establish “appropriate intermediate benchmarks (e.g. for 2020 and 2025)” for the SDG indicators, seeing them as “indispensable for addressing the accountability deficit associated with longer-term targets” (§28). The SDG 4 benchmarks define countries’ contribution to the common SDG 4 goal; enable them to contextualize the monitoring of progress and link their national with regional and global education agendas; help strengthen national planning processes; focus attention on remaining data gaps; and contribute towards mutual learning between countries on the best way forward.


The extraordinary session at the Global Education Meeting in October 2020 reminded countries of their commitment to the Declaration, which called on “UNESCO and its partners, together with the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, to … accelerate the progress and propose relevant and realistic benchmarks of key SDG 4 indicators for subsequent monitoring” (§10). The effectiveness of the process to set, monitor, and act on benchmarks rests on the agreement on political commitments and overcoming technical challenges.

The national SDG 4 benchmarks are country-led and based on national sector plans that express the contribution each country is committing to in order to reach the global achievement of SDG 4. They bring to education the idea of the nationally determined contributions of the climate change agenda.  They can therefore be a basis for a compact in which countries commit to increasing their ambition, and, in return, the international community offers a program of support. In other words, a system of political accountability associated to political commitments, with a support mechanism to accomplish the task. 

Member States were asked to set benchmarks values for 2025 and 2030 following the Global Education Monitoring - Ministerial Segment on 13 July 2021 and in a second phase, ahead of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2022. 

Benchmark indicators

Seven SDG 4 indicators have been selected in the regional benchmarking process to take into consideration disparities of regions, sub-regions and countries.

In addition, as regional organizations also have education agendas, some have also defined common targets for the region based on their regional policy priorities. The SDG 4 benchmarks process has served to find a common ground between the global, the regional and the national education agendas.

tcglogoList of SDG 4 Benchmark IndicatorstcglogoRegional benchmarks


SDG 4 Scorecard progress report on national benchmarks: Focus on early childhood

The report 2023 SDG 4 Scorecard provides the first annual snapshot of countries’ progress towards their national education benchmarks, with a focus on the participation rate in organized learning one year before primary.

Setting commitments: National SDG 4 benchmarks to transform education

This report describes the benchmarking process in detail, proposes a way forward for monitoring progress in education and presents case studies reflecting the experience of 12 countries in establishing their own national SDG 4 benchmarks. The report was first published in July 2022 for the High-level political forum and was updated in September 2022 for the Transforming Education Summit.

SDG 4 Data Digest 2021: National SDG 4 Benchmarks: Fulfilling Our Neglected Commitment

Read on the steps taken since 2017 to agree on benchmarks values on a selected set of seven SDG 4 indicators: early childhood education attendance; out-of-school rates; completion rates; gender gaps in completion rates; minimum proficiency rates in reading and mathematics; trained teachers; and public education expenditure. The process reached its first major milestone in August 2021 when countries were requested to submit 19 benchmark values each for 2025 and/or 2030 for six of the seven benchmark indicators.

Bridging Regional and Global Education Monitoring Frameworks

The UIS produced a series of documents and regional reports on bridging the global SDG 4 framework with regional education monitoring frameworks in 2021 and 2022.

Technical document
SDG 4 benchmarks database integration

‘SDG 4 Benchmarks Database Integration’ was prepared by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics to present the methodology followed in assembling the benchmarks database. The document describes the different phases of the benchmarking process and explains how countries’ submissions were managed upon reception. It also describes the results and outstanding issues associated with benchmarks derived from National Education Sector Plans and Voluntary National Reviews, and ends with a section on the management of the benchmarks database.

Benchmarks for SDG 4 Indicators: Methodological note

Read on the methodology used to derive three reference points provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics to support national SDG 4 definitions, if needed: (1) the country-specific minimum benchmark, (2) the country-specific ambitious benchmark, and (3) the regional minimum benchmark. The two country-specific benchmarks are intended to provide countries with levels of the selected indicators that are feasible to achieve given historical trends and tailored to their own starting point.

SDG 4 Data Browser

Download the data by visiting the SDG 4 Data Browser and selecting the benchmark indicators only to explore these data