Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education

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Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning for all is the fourth SDG included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Guaranteeing quality of life goes far beyond basic survival resources. More than access to food, decent housing or health services, human rights involve a number of other issues in order to secure freedom and social justice for all people, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language and religion. International Human Rights Law determines precisely what are a government’s obligations to promote and protect such freedoms, which include the right to life, opinion, expression and, not less important, education.

By providing the necessary tools for the development of individuals and societies, education can directly affect the social, economic and cultural context of the world. After all, teaching is our main guarantee for sustainable development, since it creates innovative solutions for today’s biggest problems. It is no coincidence, afterall, that education is identified as one of the 17 objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global action plan developed by the UN to guarantee the well-being of people, cities and the planet.

Being the fourth among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the SDG 4 – Quality Education has the mission “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. More than increasing income or securing a job, its main task is to transform the lives of individuals through training and empowerment. With profound impacts on society as a whole, it is not difficult to see why education has plenty of reasons to be included in the 2030 Agenda .

Starting with the economy: according to UNESCO, each additional year at school increases the average national GDP by 0.37% and individual income by up to 10%. According to the UN, children from poorer families are four times more likely to be out of school than children from wealthy families. Hunger is another problem affected. According to the 2016 Global Monitoring for Education for All report, education ensures sustainable food production by providing farmers with basic knowledge and technologies to develop sustainable agriculture. Also according to the document, literacy and agricultural extension programs can help small producers to increase productivity by up to 12%. It is clear, therefore, how the objective is directly linked to SDG 1 – Eradication of Poverty and SDG 2 – Zero Hunger and Sustainable Agriculture.

According to a UN survey, children of educated mothers – even mothers with only primary schooling – are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education, proving how it is connected to SDG 3 – Health and Well-Being. The planet’s future is also in the hands of education: according to the 2016 Global Monitoring for Education for All report, expanding access to education is more efficient against climate change than investments in infrastructure. Projections show that if progress in schooling does not advance in the near future, fatalities related to natural disasters can increase by up to 20% per decade, with greater incidence in countries where educational advances are low and uneven.

The challenge we are facing is urgent: according to the UN, more than 262 million children and adolescents between 6 and 17 years old were out of school in 2017. The numbers are even bigger when considering other age groups, since SDG 4 considers that all levels of education should be included. Data released by UNESCO show that, globally, at least 750 million young people and adults still do not know how to read and write, while the UN indicates that 617 million young people worldwide still have no basic math and literacy skills.

According to the latest study released by the UN, access to education has shown positive results, but much work still needs to be done:

  • More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • An estimated 50% of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas ;
  • At least 175 million boys and girls up to the age of five are not enrolled in early childhood;
  • Globally, there has been little progress in the percentage of primary school teachers who are trained: it has been stagnating at about 85 per cent since 2015. The proportion is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (64%) .

The reasons for the lack of universal education are many. Developing countries still have no sufficient infrastructures to provide adequate learning environments, such as electricity, Internet, computers and drinking water. According to the 2016 Global Monitoring for Education for All report, reducing by half the time spent fetching water has increased school attendance in Ghana, especially in rural areas. In Peru, with the arrival of electricity for 70% of families in rural areas, children’s study time has increased by 93 minutes a day.

Corruption and poor income distribution are other issues that are constantly highlighted in reports. UNESCO surveys have shown that low-income countries lose about $100 billion annually due to tax evasion from multinationals. Also according to the organization, in less developed nations only 4% of the poorest population finishes high school, while richer countries see the index reach 36%.

Fonte: UN

In Brazil, recent numbers released by IBGE indicate that universal access to education is still far from being achieved. About 1.5 million children and young people were still out of school between 2016 and 2017, with only 45.7% of these institutions having a library. Almost 4/10 19 year olds do not finish high school and of those who finish, less than half reach adequate levels of proficiency in reading and mathematics. Also according to UNESCO, the country was unable to reach the 2016 goal of the National Education Plan (PNE), which defended the universalization of pre-school for children aged four and five.

The PNE program was approved in 2014 and determines 20 goals to be achieved in the next ten years by the Brazilian Federal Government. The goals range from early childhood education to the teacher’s training. According to UNESCO, another PNE’s goal will not be achieved – that of having at least 50% of boys and girls up to three years old enrolled in daycare centers by 2024. According to IBGE data, 26% of low-income children are in daycare centers, while the index represents 55% for those in wealthy households.

Municipal managers are responsible for creating policies aligned with both the PNE and the targets of SDG 4. Bright Cities works directly with cities to diagnose and indicate smart solutions in ten areas of urban management, including education. When evaluating the performance of a municipality, our platform uses a series of indicators aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to obtain accurate information on the scope and the quality of the offered services.

Many of the indicators used are directly related to SDG 4 – Quality Education. Some of them are listed below and we also tell why they are an important tool for identifying, evaluating and guiding cities towards the 2030 Agenda:

  • Indicator “Percentage of school-aged population enrolled in school”: by indicating the number of children and adolescents enrolled, the data reveals if the city has been achieving the target 4.1 of SDG 4: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes“;
  • Indicators “Percentage of students completing primary education: Survival rate and “Percentage of students completing secondary education: Survival rate”: the numbers indicate how many students completed the first years of basic education, revealing whether a city is achieving target 4.1 of SDG 4: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes” ;
  • Indicator “Number of higher education degrees”: the indicator shows the rate of students who completed and obtained university degrees, as mentioned in target 4.3 of SDG 4: “By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university” and target 4.4: “By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship“;
  • Indicators “Percentage of female school-aged population enrolled in school” and “Percentage of male school-aged population enrolled in school”: both data make it possible to understand whether gender equity in education is being achieved in a city, according to target 4.5 of SDG 4: “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations“;
  • Indicator “Percentage of teachers of secondary school with higher education degrees”: the data provides important information about the quality of education, as pointed out in target 4.c of SDG 4: “By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially the least developed countries and small island developing States“.

Based on these indicators, Bright Cities deliveries a roadmap of smart solutions according to the needs, scale, urgency and budget of cities. The platform has a Smart City Solutions Database available online, so that citizens and managers can learn about initiatives and technologies capable of helping municipalities to achieve the SDG 4. Among them is 42 SÃO PAULO, a free school of programming that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to train its students. With a peer-to-peer method, a learning model in which participants learn from each other, the school has no teachers.

To discover more initiatives like this, access Bright Cities platform and discover the most innovative solutions in the world. Our News Platform is also making a special content about the SDGs, where each week we address one of the 17 Goals and tell you what smart solutions suit each one of them. Follow our Instagram and Twitter to learn more about how the 2030 Agenda wants to change the world in the next ten years!