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EFA partners give their views > Denise Lievesley
 Maris O. Rourke
 Angela W. Little
 Judith L. Evans
 Denise Lievesley
 Victor Ordonez
 Clinton Robinson
 O. J. Sikes

 

 
Sound policy-making requires good data
By Denise Lievesley
 

  On 1 July 1999 UNESCO disbanded its Division of Statistics and established a new semi-autonomous Institute for Statistics. The aim of the new Institute is to ensure that statistical information of the highest quality is collected from as many countries as possible and is policy-relevant.

 
  Already at this early stage in its life, the Institute is heavily involved in the Education for All 2000 Assessment. This exercise is absolutely critical to the world in terms of reviewing what countries have achieved since the 1990 World Conference on Education for All. It is also vital as a benchmark to enable us to assess progress in the future and to ensure that any future targets we make are realistic and are accompanied by appropriate resources.
 
  Today, many countries have inadequate data archival systems and our first task was to try to minimize unnecessary work on their part and to reduce data discrepancies. All countries therefore received the data they had provided to UNESCO since 1990, asking them to supplement, correct or amend these data where they wished.
 
 The work of the Institute for Statistics from now until the World Education Forum next April comprises:
 
  receipt of data, validation checks, trying to reduce unexplained discrepancies, working with countries to improve data quality
   
  attendance at regional EFA meetings to assist in the production, analysis and interpretation of data
 
  possible direct assistance in countries that have had difficulty in producing data
 
  the production of a global statistical report on EFA for the World Education Forum
 
  preparation of the EFA database for dissemination
 
  The EFA 2000 Assessment process is an excellent learning opportunity for the Institute for Statistics. Through it we hope to identify those countries that have experienced difficulties in providing data so that we can help them to build (or re-build) statistical systems. In the case of countries that have been able to provide the EFA 2000 Assessment data, we are optimistic that the relationship forged with the Institute will enable us to develop together even more effective statistical systems for the future.
 
  It is important to underline that the Assessment is not an end in itself. Rather, it is the beginning of a long process. The perennial problems of school drop-outs and low learning achievement, for example, are symptomatic of the poor quality of education in many countries. Thus internationally comparable data on educational quality and on the efficient use of educational resources are just two of the areas which demand more attention in our future work.
 
  Although data requirements must emanate from the policy needs of the countries, the relevance of data to policy is under-recognized in many countries. We hope to forge partnerships between users and producers of data within countries, and to demonstrate that the more data are used and valued within countries, the more attention will be paid to their quality and timeliness. Sound policy-making in education is simply not possible without reliable and up-to-date data.
 
Denise Lievesley is Director of UNESCO's new Institute for Statistics. She was previously Director of the United Kingdom Data Archive and Professor at the University of Essex in England.
 
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