Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All
On 25 September 2015, at the United Nations (UN) meeting, 193 world leaders committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It includes a set of 17 universally applicable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that set the target for action for the next 15 years. These SDGs seek to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change, ensuring prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.
Of these 17 goals is SDG 4 "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all".
SDG 4 is broken down into seven targets, and three means of implementation. The targets are as follows:
by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete primary and secondary education, which is free, equitable and of good quality and produces relevant and effective learning outcomes.
By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood care and development and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary school.
By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university education.
By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access for vulnerable people, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations, to all levels of education and vocational training.
By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have the necessary skills, including technical and vocational skills, to access employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
By 2030, ensure that all young people and at least a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, have literacy and numeracy skills.
By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including through education for sustainable development and the adoption of sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and the contribution of culture to sustainable development, among other means.
WHY IS QUALITY EDUCATION SO IMPORTANT?
Quality education is key to achieving upward social and economic mobility. According to UN data, great strides have been made over the past ten years in expanding access to education and school enrolment rates at all levels, especially for girls.
In 2020, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries announced temporary school closures, affecting more than 91% of students worldwide. By April 2020, nearly 1.6 billion children and young people were out of school.
Furthermore, in order to protect and ensure access to lifelong learning, UNESCO launched the Global Coalition for Education COVID-19 in March 2020. This is a multi-sectoral partnership between the UN system, civil society organizations, media and IT partners to design and implement innovative solutions.
WHY IS QUALITY EDUCATION SO IMPORTANT?
Quality education is a key driver for breaking out of the cycle of poverty, something that helps empower people to lead more sustainable and healthy lifestyles, thus benefiting society as a whole. Therefore, ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality education is SDG 4 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda.
Our interest in the SDGs, although SDG 4 is a priority, does not end there. SDG 16 states "Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies". And although this SDG is specified in goals that are somewhat distant from education, it does bring to the table something that we may have forgotten in inclusive education: the "what for". Inclusive education for an inclusive society. If we do not look beyond schools and our actions do not seek to have a direct impact on social change, we will only achieve useless oases of inclusion.
The Sustainable Development Goals are an excellent initiative by the international community to focus efforts on 17 goals. Even if we fall short, we believe it is an excellent opportunity to lead the way. We have 8 years of hard work ahead of us so that in 2030 we can truly say that we are in a better world, and that our work on achieving truly inclusive education has contributed to this.
According to latest numbers, roughly 70 % of children could complete secondary school. Because of the partial or complete school closures during the pandemic, many children are at risk for child labor or child marriage. That is why it is crucial to get them back on track immediately. Many schools lack basic infrastructures such as drinking water, single-sex toilets, handwashing facilities, internet, computers, and even electricity. In addition, so many students do not have basic equipment or access to attend online schools during the school closures. Furthermore, in the ongoing pandemic, internet and communication technologies are more essential than ever and could use immediate infrastructure and education preparation.
 UNICEF DATA. Secondary Education and Enrollment Statistics