The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) may not ring many bells, but I am ready to bet that most of you have seen our data on literacy and gender equity–from the number of girls out of school to our literacy figures showing that women account for two-thirds of the global population unable to read or write a basic sentence.
As the communications officer, my job is to spread the message about UIS data. In the past, this meant writing press releases about new data sets or helping to produce statistical reports for policymakers. But recently, the work has become a lot more interesting, thanks to a small team of statisticians and developers eager to design a series of online data visualizations, such as interactive flow maps, comparative tools and infographics, to reach new audiences via the Institute’s website and social media channels.
In the spirit of austerity, we rely on a ‘virtual’ budget – meaning a mix of volunteer time from staff and rare dollars shaved from other projects. But a few weeks ago, we hit paydirt–Mind the Gap – Gender & Education, a new data game specifically designed for students and their teachers to highlight gender inequalities in all levels of education in about 200 countries and territories (see description below).
The initial response has been extremely positive. “I absolutely love this tool!” wrote one supporter, who pledges to share it with her contacts among teachers and youth movements. Another wrote, “People need to see more of this type of educational material! Stories, not just facts, [are] a great way to pass the message across.”
The enthusiasm came complete with good suggestions for improvement, such as voiceovers. But ironically, the only grumble of discontent came from within the Institute. Some of our most respected colleagues just cannot understand why we would waste time and effort on just another gimmick. On the surface, this smacks of a classic case of generation divide over the use of technology to tell the stories behind the data. To be fair, the old school of statisticians are perhaps most keenly aware of the depressing realities behind the data.
A case in point: about 61 million children of primary school age are out of school globally. For years, this number was slowly but steadily falling. But since 2008, the progress has stopped. In fact, the number of children denied their basic right to education is rising in Africa. Just imagine – about half of these excluded children will probably never set foot in a classroom.
Clearly the pressure is on to spur governments into action. So why release a game? The truth is governments know the score. They have all the data presented in a stockpile of reports and papers analyzing the trend. So we have to switch gears and tap into another force of change–youth.
Where You Come In
We need your help.
1. Tell us how we can get this tool into classrooms.
2. Send your suggestions on what types of tools–or ‘gimmicks’–we should develop in the future.
3. Give us the insider’s view on how to convey global messages in local schools.
In short, join our efforts to produce ‘data to make a difference’.
Please contact me through email–any help is greatly appreciated!
“Imagine you are young girl starting school in the North African country of Mauritania. What are the chances you will continue to secondary school or even university? Will you keep up with, or even surpass, the boys in your class? Now compare your situation with students in Sweden or Chile, using a virtual machine to travel across countries and generations. You can do all this and more by playing Mind the Gap – Gender & Education, a new online game illustrating the progress and pitfalls of girls’ and women’s education around the world.
Put yourself in the game by creating a persona. Observe the gaps in school enrollment as you visit other countries or travel back in time. See how rates compare for male and female students. What is the situation in your country? Mind the Gap, developed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), is a quick and engaging way for users to explore the latest education data for about 200 countries and territories, highlighting gender disparities in primary, secondary and tertiary education. It is available in English, French and Spanish.”