Prof. Diana Coben invited expert on literacy and numeracy assessment at UNESCO

Date / Time: 23 May 2018

Professor Diana Coben from Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, was one of the invited experts on youth and adult literacy and numeracy assessment from around the world who attended an Expert Meeting on global assessment frameworks for measuring youth and adult literacy and numeracy at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 17-18 May.

The meeting was entitled: 'Expanded assessment frameworks for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 4.6.1’. Diana moderated the Numeracy sessions. The inclusion of numeracy as a specified domain in SDG 4 is significant as numeracy has previously been subsumed within literacy in UN / UNESCO documents.

The SDG 4.6.1 Indicator is: ‘Percentage of the population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills’.

Its 'parent' is SDG 4.6: 'By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy' - see

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) is leading on SDG 4.6.1, and held its first Expert Meeting on 7th and 8th November 2017 to discuss and agree on the conceptual framework for measuring literacy and numeracy. Participants concurred that the assessment framework of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) would be used as the foundation to further expand it to the lower end of proficiency levels of literacy and numeracy. Following on from the May 2018 meeting, a further Expert Meeting at UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg in October will carry this work forward.

This work contributes to the agenda set out in Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations in 2015 under the UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/70/1 This ambitious Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. The UN recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets set out in the 2030 Agenda seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and complete what they had not achieved when they ended in 2015. Unlike the MDGs, the SDG framework does not distinguish between "developed" and "developing" nations. Instead, it applies to all countries. Although the goals are not legally binding, countries are expected to report voluntarily on implementation.

A crucial issue for all SDGs is: how do we measure success? New Zealand has emphasised the importance of effectively measuring and tracking their implementation without adding additional layers of bureaucracy. Officials are currently working across different agencies to coordinate indicators and results, measurement and reporting systems.