Education and the Sustainable Development GoalsLong idolized were the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight targets created and adopted by the United Nations in 2000. Central to their aim was the eradication of global poverty by improving maternal health and access to clean water, food and education while reducing the number of people living on under $1.25 a day across the developing world.

However, the days of the Millennium Development Goals are over. They expired this year after 15 years mixed with success and failure. A new set of global development goals is now on the horizon: the Sustainable Development Goals. Once again, there will be a specific goal tailored to improve equal education access for all. But before delving into how that goal is currently shaping up, it is worth examining how education fared with the Millennium Development Goals.

Goal two of The Millennium Development Goals aimed to achieve universal primary education. The goal only had one target: “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.”

Unfortunately, this target was not met. On the bright side, the number of children globally that now attend primary school has risen dramatically since 1990. Enrollment in the developing world has risen to 91 percent, but the goal was for universal primary education, meaning all children everywhere. There is also still a fairly large gender gap in some areas. Of the 57 million kids out of school, 33 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa and 55 percent of those 33 million children are girls.

So where are the Sustainable Development Goals heading in terms of education development in the next 15 years? First off, education gets another specific goal for itself. The target this time is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” not all that different from the Millennium Development Goal before it.

The Sustainable Development Goals’ “vision is to transform lives through education, recognizing the important role of education as a main driver of development.” Looking to continue with the progress created by the Millennium Development Goals, goal four of the Sustainable Development Goals will look to expand access to all by providing 12 years of free, publicly-funded, high-quality equal education. Nine of these years will be compulsory.

Particular emphasis is put on the quality of education going forward. By increasing quality of education, the 100-year education gap between the developed and developing has the potential to be reduced. Another benefit of an improvement in the quality of education is that it will improve learning outcomes. How can this be done? By “strengthening inputs, processes and evaluation of outcomes and mechanisms to measure progress.”

Another facet to quality education is ensuring that the teachers are well trained, empowered, motivated and supported. This ensures a higher level of quality when it comes to education.

Often seen as a gateway out of poverty, education is an extremely important issue when it comes to development in the developing world. It will be interesting to track the evolution of the Sustainable Development Goals’ development toward a fully-fledged goal. Hopefully, it can continue the inroads created by the Millennium Development Goals and improve education for the millions of children without it.

Gregory Baker

Sources: UNDP, UNESCO UN Millennium Goals, UN Sustainable Development,
Photo: Flickr