Data Must Speak

User-friendly information enables decision makers and communities to drive change in providing quality education to all children.

Despite growing evidence of education’s benefits, 263 million school-age children and adolescents are out of school worldwide. Among those most excluded are boys and girls from the poorest households, those with disabilities, from ethnic and linguistic minorities, and those living in remote or conflict-affected areas.

Even when children go to school, they too often do not acquire basic skills due to the poor quality of education. 617 million school-age children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency levels in reading and maths.




Leave no one behind.

Access and learning challenges are often exacerbated by insufficient capacity and ineffective accountability in education systems at central, regional, and school levels. There is an urgent need to build stronger and more equitable education systems. For decision makers, school managers, teachers and local communities, information is essential to solve problems, build good practices, and manage financial and human resources.


For decision makers, school managers, teachers and local communities, information is essential


Globally, education systems regularly collect large amounts of data from schools, however, too often these data aren’t actively used to improve learning or management and don’t go back to school.

Decision makers generally don’t have the information they need to fairly allocate resources. If data is shared and used more effectively, decisions can be better-informed, and help prioritize resources and support to the districts and schools that need them most. Better data use can also help identify high performing schools to share their lessons for success.

Data can increase community involvement and agency. User-friendly information enables communities to act and drive change. Providing quality education to all children requires systems that are transparent and responsive to their communities. Parents and communities need information to deeply engage in discussions on improving school performance and holding school managers accountable for results.

Data should not sleep, data must speak

With the Data Must Speak (DMS) initiative, UNICEF’s goal is to enhance access to education for all learners and improve learning. To help countries improve learning through data, we unlock and maximize the use and utility of education data that already exist.

Launched in 2014, and co-funded by the Global Partnership for Education, Hewlett Foundation and the Education Thematic Fund (mainly funded by Norway), DMS strives to ensure that:

Data drives policy decisions

Government education officials, at all levels, must analyze, compare and use data to inform resource allocation and system management fairly.

Communities are empowered

Communities, parents and students should understand their school’s resources and performance in comparison to other schools. Then they can pressure school managers to improve their school’s performance when needed. This is facilitated by easy-to-use profile cards, accessible to low-literacy audiences.

Research improves knowledge

Rigorous evaluations highlight what works and what doesn’t work when making data speak. DMS also produces research case studies on the association between community/parental participation and school performance in several countries, such as Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Niger and Togo.


DMS provide specific tools for each country

DMS provides direct technical assistance in Chad, Madagascar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, the Philippines, Togo and Zambia

In Nepal, DMS supported the development of an equity index, which provides more support to districts where schools are lagging, and whose ultimate goal is to reduce Nepal’s inequalities of education opportunities.

In the Philippines, DMS and the government developed a formula to give salary bonuses to teachers in the most challenging areas. This reform will support the deployment of experienced teachers to work in the most disadvantaged schools.

In Madagascar, Togo and Zambia, DMS is catalyzing school-level community action, by supporting the design, development and production of district and school profile cards, and helping train relevant stakeholders (school directors, inspectors, teachers and parents) on their use to develop school improvement plans. Over 8,900 schools in Zambia now have information on how well their schools are resourced and performing in comparison to others. In Madagascar 25,000 primary schools have been trained on the use of the school profile cards.



These resources on the Data Must Speak initiative represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF, Ministries of Education and their partners. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information. Most of the resources available below are in English. Some are in the local languages of the countries where the initiative is implemented.


Data Must Speak Formative Evaluation Final Report

Global information about Data Must Speak in the lives of children

Data Must Speak on the ground (country materials)

Research, publications and information how Data Must Speak works


Contact us

For further information, please contact Nicolas Reuge (