Today, people can receive education in many accessible forms - like this video! However, many communities do not have access to schools, teacher resources, and overall quality education. The number of trained primary school teachers globally has stalled at about 85% since 2015. In 2016, 750 million people were illiterate, two-thirds of them being women. Disparities in educational resources are especially wide in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, under 50% of schools have electricity, internet access, and drinking water. In order to address the world’s problem with insufficient education, the United Nations has created SDG 4.
SDG 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Targets and Indicators
SDG 4 has ten targets, or subgoals. Target 4.2 aims to ensure all children have access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre-primary education. Target 4.7 includes learning about sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, peaceful cultures, global citizenship, and cultural diversity. The scope of this target shows how critical education is to achieving all 17 SDGs.
Indicators of SDG 4 tell us if we are on track to meeting the goal. One example is monitoring the proportion of teachers who have received at least basic teacher training.
What’s Already Being Done
Unfortunately, there are several targets that we are not on track to meeting. This includes increasing the supply of teachers, as UNESCO released a report in 2019 indicating that the number of trained teachers in sub-Saharan Africa is falling. Target 4.7 is more difficult to track methodologically, but the same UNESCO report found that there are gaps in general education about sustainable development.
However, different national policies and the work of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs are making progress towards SGD 4. Norway, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and France provide free or low-cost education for college students. In the United States, the organization Jumpstart helps kindergarteners get a strong educational foundation to break cycles of poverty. By focusing their efforts on low-income neighborhoods, Jumpstart addresses an important disparity. Research has found that a child’s social class is the most significant predictor of their academic success, starting in kindergarten, and that investing in pre-K programs helps close these gaps.
Applying It: How Everyone Can Help
Though organizations and governments need to be proactive, there are things you can do to help make SDG 4 a reality. If you can, donate money or school supplies, or volunteer with organizations like Jumpstart. Spread awareness of SDG 4 and stay up-to-date on education news. It is also critical that we recognize intersections between educational inequity and other issues. Low-income communities, women, and people of color are less likely to receive a quality education. Use your voice to advocate for these communities and their right to education. Though small, these steps can help the world achieve SDG 4!