Monitoring for equity in education and training

Problem statement

An important dimension for tackling educational disadvantage is monitoring – monitoring that is accurate, regular, and integrated into practice. Monitoring is a valuable strategy when integrated in the daily routines of schools or individual and group practices that provide comparable information on education quality and success. However, Member States differ significantly in how developed and comprehensive their education monitoring systems are. There is a widespread awareness of the need for more transparency and accountability within education systems across the EU [1], stemming from considerable differences in the quality of education available to students across countries and demographics, resulting in unequal opportunities and, in turn, educational outcomes. Achieving and maintaining balance in inclusive and quality learning is a matter of accountability, and these are only possible if the system is fully aware of its parts.

Implications for education

A systematic and clear monitoring framework and mechanisms can give a clear picture of the adjustments and improvements needed within an education system to adapt to the constantly changing environment. By keeping track of changes in a pupil’s achievement, motivation and attitudes, many inequalities can be predicted and systematically prevented [2].

Some commonly used monitoring mechanisms include self-study/self-evaluation, benchmarking and external quality monitoring. Through these mechanisms, it is possible to track whether all core conditions for quality and equity are present and functioning in the system and also whether and how coherent these elements are and how they interlink. At the EU level, headline indicators and benchmarks are adopted to monitor general progress of European performance towards European strategic objectives (e.g. ET 2020 benchmarks) [3]; however, some of them lack a more explicit dimension of access to and success in education for vulnerable groups, which is a crucial component of equity and social inclusion in education [4].

At present, very few EU Member States have mature monitoring systems that collect data on all phases of education and training and their quality, and that can track progress over time in terms of participation and attainment of disadvantaged groups, which has implications for overall promotion of educational justice.


Research evidence suggests that good and comprehensive monitoring systems provide policy-makers and education system stakeholders with good examples and promising approaches on how to tackle educational disadvantage. However, monitoring should not only have the purpose of system maintenance, but should also act as system support, for example for benchmarking and reviewing pupil and teacher performance. For this it is important that the system monitors patterns of participation and attainment of disadvantaged learners, identifying inequality factors and defining educational success and educational quality indicators. Monitoring how social disadvantages and, in turn, educational disadvantages impact pupils’ school trajectories and performance through micro-level analysis would allow to detect disengagement behaviour and provide timely and appropriate support. Monitoring systems should also include early warning systems (EWS) – different methods and routines aimed at identifying and responding to early signs of the likelihood of early school leaving or underachievement. These methods and tools can be part of a regular school monitoring system, but also help to illustrate the need for cooperation with other institutions like social welfare and health services.  EWS can be used to inform the implementation of specific targeted support measures and to ensure that they reach the right learners [5] [6].

[1] UNESCO, ‘Systemic Monitoring of Education for ALL, Training modules for Asia-Pacific’, UNESCO Bangkok, Thailand, 2011.

[2] See, for example, Akkerman, Y., Overcoming School Failure: Policies that Work, Background Report for the Netherlands, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Den Haag, 2011. OECD, Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools. Spotlight Report: Austria, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2012, p. 10. PDF file

[3] Council of the European Union, ‘Council conclusions on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (‘ET 2020’)’, Official Journal of the European Union, 2009/C 119/02, of 12 May 2009. PDF file

[4] Downes, P., Access to Education in Europe: A framework and agenda for system change, Dordrecht, Springer, 2014.

[5] GHK Consulting ltd., Study on Reducing Early School Leaving in the EU, DGEAC, 2011, p. 350. PDF file

[6] European Commission, Education and Training Monitor 2013, 2013, p. 73. PDF file