The UN's fourth Goal—achieving quality education—seeks inclusive education for all youths, adults, and vulnerable populations, regardless of gender and ability, have access to instruction or vocational training by 2030. This includes free and equitable primary and secondary education for children, and affordable technical, vocational, and tertiary education for adults.
According the UN, despite progress, “more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.” Regardless of gender, the proportion of children achieving at least a minimum proficiency in reading and math must increase. This will require further investments not only in institutions and facilities, but also in teachers. Since 2015, the proportion of trained primary school teachers has kept steady at a global average of 85 percent—in sub-Saharan Africa the percentage is lower, at only 64 percent.
Education is in many ways a cornerstone for the Sustainable Development Goals. The knowledge and skills afforded by a quality education are the starting point for building a better future, ensuring gender equality, promoting mutual understanding, and practicing sustainable, peaceful lifestyles.
In the stories below, we learn about a few of the many solutions improving the quality of education globally by empowering people and eliminating barriers. In the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, Somali girls are proving their resilience by continuing their education in the face of displacement and cultural pressure to leave it behind. Explore further to learn about how we can leverage technology to increase access to education, as in Yemen, where the world’s first text message college course is delivering education to students displaced by war. You’ll also learn that in our technological age, youth in Finland are learning to discern “fake news” and disinformation on the web.
Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on quality education.
- Identify the populations that face the greatest barriers to quality education. What groups in particular lack access to, or are denied, the right to education? Choose one group in particular and discuss solutions that are working to eliminate barriers to quality education.
- With one billion schoolchildren home during the pandemic, there has been a significant focus in the media and on social media platforms on education. Articulate how having all those children at home has impacted the way we think about education—how we deliver it, what are its goals, and the value of teachers.
- What particular challenges do the children of migrant families face in receiving quality education? Compare and contrast the ways these issues differ between populations of seasonal migrants as compared to refugees or those displaced by conflict.
- What role do schools play in the health and well-being of children? Consider what role schools play in the UN’s safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program outside of the home.
- How can investing in education help break the poverty cycle? In what other ways do the targets of Goals 4 and 1 align?
- Create a collection around an Issue Area or Success Factor related to Goal 4. Include 4-6 stories not yet represented in this collection.
- a) Girls, as two-thirds of illiterate adults are women and more than half of the 59 million children out of school are girls. b) Migrants, refugees, and displaced persons lack access to many resources, including quality education. c) Disabled persons, as many children who suffer from disabilities cannot access educational facilities. d) People in detention. According to the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, “Detention can include people who have committed a criminal offense, people awaiting trial, illegal migrants, persons in health centres and detained children. People in detention are often denied their right to education before and during their incarceration. Education can also play a key role in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”
- Technology has played a fundamental role in the response to school closings during the pandemic. A vast new audience has been exposed to educational technology and distance learning. The transition to complete distance learning has also highlighted the digital divide that remains in America. A significant portion of school-age children lack access to the internet at home. But it’s not just individuals; entire districts in rural areas of the country lack connectivity, putting their students at a distinct competitive disadvantage in a digital world. The pandemic has highlighted the degree to which school meal programs are, in many cases, the primary source of children’s nutrition, and the need for these programs to be expanded. Tens of millions of parents have had to school from home, giving us a national lesson in the value of good teachers.
- Refugees and displaced people face a lack of resources, infrastructure, and many of the other challenges related to living in camps or living in places where they do not speak the language. While some of these challenges also apply to seasonal migrants, approaches to bringing out-of-school learning to seasonally migrant families may benefit, for instance, from more predictable seasonal movement.
- Consider how school meals contribute to the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the World Food Progamme, “school meals facilitate access to school, increase enrollment and attendance rates and improve the nutritional status, health and cognitive development of children.”
- Improving literacy and other skills helps to improve economic performance. Consider that, according to the UN, "every additional year of primary school increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence."
- Answers will vary by student. See: how to create a collection. More information on Success Factors here.