Ensuring quality and inclusive education for all and promoting lifelong learning is the Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the United Nations’ new SDG 2030 agenda as was set by international leaders during the September global summit.
In a century where education is the paramount aspect of every facet of life, some people can still not access quality formal education because either it’s not available in their geographic locations, they cannot afford it, or they do not see the essence of it.
Most developing countries are facing this challenge, and though the ratio of the educated to the uneducated has been on a gradual upsurge lately, the current number of uneducated persons in the world is still unbearably colossal.
The following are the SDG 4 targets:
1. Ensure that all children, both boys and girls, enrol in and complete free, quality and equitable primary and secondary education.
The UN plans to achieve this by pushing governments of developing countries into allocating more funds towards the education sector so that free, or at least affordable, education can be made available, more schools and classes can be built, more qualified teachers can be hired and reading and writing materials can be obtained.
2. Ensure that all boys and girls can access quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) and pre-primary education before joining primary schools.
Even as the number of children in developing countries who enrol for primary education increases each day, a study shows that less than 37 percent of them actually go through ECD first. According to the UN, pre-primary education is just as important as primary and secondary education. It’s a basic stage of the whole education system, a foundation on which all the subsequent levels have their basis.
3. Ensure equal access for men and women to quality and affordable vocational, technical and tertiary education.
While a balance has been achieved in the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in primary schools, the proportion of women in tertiary institutions in developing regions is estimated at 41%. The percentage keeps falling as you go up the education levels, and this can be attributed to premarital pregnancies, early marriages and lack of support for the girl child past secondary level.
The UN wants to promote gender equality in access to tertiary education by influencing respective governments into reducing university, college and university fees, and organising for sponsorship programmes to the rescue of poor but bright female students who wish to continue with their education.
4. Increase significantly the number of individuals with relevant skills, including vocational and technical skills, for employment, entrepreneurship and decent jobs.
By increasing the number of tertiary institutions, the number of women and the general number of students attending these institutions, fee affordability and access to sponsorship programmes, the crude number of candidates for decent jobs and entrepreneurship will increase substantially.
5. Enhance equal access to all levels of education for the vulnerable, including the extremely poor, persons with disabilities, children in vulnerable situations and indigenous people.
Equal access to education and job opportunities to people in vulnerable situations such as the disabled has not been fully achieved in most developing countries, a situation the UN wants to overturn before 2020. In many instances, lack of special equipment in schools and work places rather than mere prejudice, is the main reason most persons in vulnerable situations are uneducated and unemployed.
The UN’s plan is to ensure schools for the disabled, equipped with the right learning materials, are built and every employer has reserved job vacancies to accommodate graduates from these institutions.
6. Ensure that all youth and a good percentage of adults achieve literacy and numeracy.
7. Expand the global number of scholarships available to developing countries, particularly least developed countries, African counties and small island developing states, to promote enrolment for tertiary education, including information and communications technology and vocational training, engineering, scientific and technical programmes in developed countries and some developing countries.
The UN plans to use its status as an internationally recognised body to influence sponsors from developed countries to invest in educational facilities for boys and girls from poor families, and those in vulnerable situation.
8. Increase the availability of teachers by increasing the number of teaching institutions and even import scholars from developed nations on contract basis to teach in these institutions with the hope that the countries in question will at last have enough well-trained teachers of their own.
More than 100 million youth in the world lack basic literacy skills and more than 60% of them are women. Enrolment in primary schools in developing countries has reached a remarkable proportion of 91% but 57 million children still remain uneducated. In Sub-Saharan Africa particularly, education is a major cause of concern. The region makes for more than 50 percent of the children that have not enrolled in school worldwide.
Recent Developments to Support SDG 4
Over the past one decade, more schools have been built in developing nations, more enrolments for primary and secondary education has taken place, and most importantly, a balance has been attained in the proportion of boys to girls enrolled in schools.
Literacy levels have generally improved, but bolder efforts are still needed to make international education goals even more achievable. For instance, gender equality in terms of access to basic education has been achieved, but still only a few countries have attained this at all levels of education.
By increasing the number of educated youths in developing societies, the UN will have consequently increased the global proportion of qualified workforce. This will in turn reduce the number of foreign workers in these countries and attract more local and foreign investments as investors will have the sense of security needed as far as availability of qualified employees is concerned. The ultimate result of this is reduction in the rates of unemployment, which basically translates to reduction in poverty, increase in returns for companies and businesses as qualified employees will certainly boost productivity, and increase in revenue for the government as a consequence.
As the government collects more and more revenue through taxes from established and new companies, its stability increases and the country gradually gains financial independence. Funds for setting up of fundamental facilities such as schools and hospitals become available, national security levels increase and the general economic situation of the country improves in the long run.
This cycle, which has worked in most developed countries, always begins with education, and that’s why the UN made accessing quality education for all one of the Sustainable Development Goals – its main focus between now and 2030.