Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is shifting and widening the global debate on education
We are seeing many countries adopt SDG 4 as a framework for designing education policies that are promoting more inclusion and equity, that are improving national learning assessments, and that are introducing pedagogical reforms. In addition, the concept of lifelong learning is increasingly entering into political debates on education.
SDG 4 is influencing the scope and reach of education policies globally because its aspirations are relevant to all countries
- SDG 4’s focus on inclusion and equity is relevant to all countries – low, middle and high-income - because to different degrees, every education system confronts challenges of inequality, be it social disadvantage, gender, disability, migration or geographical isolation.
- SDG 4 spans the entire education system, from early childhood to higher education, from literacy to technical and vocational education and training, calling for a system-wide approach.
- SDG 4’s emphasis on quality is both about proficiency in core subjects and the acquisition of new competences and skills for personal fulfillment, empowerment and sustainable development.
- SDG 4’s emphasis on lifelong learning - the digital revolution is permeating our lives, reshaping all societies by displacing jobs and creating new employment niches. It is a given today that people need opportunities to acquire new skills throughout life and to have second-chance opportunities to pursue their education.
Global trends do not capture positive changes that are happening at country level, testifying to national commitment and efforts to take ownership of SDG 4. New analysis of Voluntary National Reviews submitted to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) and a questionnaire survey led by the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEMR) show that many countries are aligning education sector strategies with SDG 4.
All regions have translated the global goal into regional implementation roadmaps that identify priorities and set targets. This has been a process of political and social dialogue, and of peer learning – between governments, multilateral partners, civil society, teacher organizations and other stakeholders.
The GEMR survey finds that SDG 4 is interpreted slightly differently by some countries, specifically in terms of the meaning of inclusion or lifelong learning. It is clear however, that the goal has provided the impetus for countries to adopt a wider vision of education, to amend legislation, strengthen policies on inclusion and equity, monitor learning outcomes and introduce pedagogical reforms, including new skills for digital competences, citizenship and sustainable development. Survey results also find that the challenge of achieving SDG 4 has driven increased interest in regional and global collaboration.
While not in the global figures these are positive developments that reflect the ambition to transform education, not only to leave no one behind but to ensure that everyone gains the knowledge and skills to shape their lives and that of their communities in healthy, resilient and sustainable ways.