goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning
“Education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles
for sustainable development.”
United Nations Development Programme, 2016
A quality education is a fundamental human right, one that affects the development of individuals and societies in all contexts: cultural, political, economic, and social. Reflective of its critical role in achieving the other global goals, SDG 4: Quality Education expanded upon MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education with its emphasis on inclusion and equity so that all persons have access to free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education. The United Nations (2000) defines quality education as one where:
Separate Is Never Equal
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities;
Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities;
Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace;
Processes through which trained teachers use child-centred teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms and schools and skilful assessment to facilitate learning and reduce disparities; and
Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society.
Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate for her work as an education activist, particularly for girls. Having survived the Taliban’s attempt to end her life, Malala remains unwavering in her global activism, speaking at the UN and worldwide, authoring a memoir, and establishing the Malala Fund that invests in local leaders and organizations that deliver quality secondary education for girls.
Here are just a few example resources you could use to teach and learn more about Malala:
Significant progress toward quality education has been made in recent decades: the number of children out-of-school has nearly halved; total primary school enrollment in developing regions reached 91%; and literacy rates have increased, particularly among girls (United Nations Development Programme, 2016). Disparities, however, still exist throughout the world, especially among girls and boys, rural compared to urban areas, and in differences in wealth. Poverty, conflict, discrimination, health, and access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene continue to serve as barriers to quality education (United Nations, 2000), underscoring the interdependent nature of the Global Goals. Education can ameliorate inequalities and social injustices just as they can affect access to quality education (Vladimirova & Le Blanc, 2015).
“Education is neither eastern nor western. Education is education and it's the right of every human being.”
― Malala Yousafzai
By teaching children about their basic right to an education, they will are more likely to respect and advocate for others’ rights (e.g., Wallberg & Kahn, 2011). Education is also intricately linked to the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through education, children may acquire knowledge and skills to address other global issues, and achievement of SDGs can promote children’s health and well-being, making education possible. For example, as the GEM report states, “education can help with the shift to a more sustainable way of living.” Education can drive green innovation and also achieve resilience in disaster situations (e.g., Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill). Education can also promote better use of our finite resources and innovative ways to repurpose and recycle them as opposed to throwing them into the landfill. Lastly, education can impact children’s health, as well as prevent a host of global issues, such as water, air, and land pollution. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle aptly stated: “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” The health of our water systems affects all life on earth and they are in serious danger. Pollution is harmful to young brains and hinders their ability to learn and go to school. Progress in health is linked with progress in education. In short, education is at the heart of sustainable development.
To support teachers’ design and implementation of interdisciplinary, solution-focused curriculum for students, the table below outlines sample children’s literature, stand-alone lesson and unit plans, and media resources, including hyperlinks to each resource for your access. The table is searchable by keyword with each resource aligned with the 6 global dimensions: dimensions of change; globalization and interdependence; identity and cultural diversity; peace building and conflict resolution; social justice and human rights; and sustainable futures.
Children's Literature resources
(e.g., lesson plans; curriculum units)
(e.g., documentary films; video links; helpful websites)
European Commission International Cooperation and Development. (2016). Global education dialogue. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sectors/human-development/education/global-education-dialogue_en
United Nations. (n.d.) Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/
United Nations. (2000). Defining quality education. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/education/files/QualityEducation.PDF
United Nations Development Programme. (2016). Sustainable development goals. Retrieved from http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-4-quality-education.html
Vladimirova, K., & Le Blanc, D. (2015). How well are the links between education and other sustainable development goals covered in UN flagship reports? A contribution to the study of the science-policy interface on education in the UN system. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org
Wallberg, P., & Kahn, M. (2011). The Rights Project: How rights education transformed a classroom. Canadian Children, 36(1), 31-35.