Goal 4: Quality Education

Education is a human right with immense power to transform.
On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.

Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General

Information and communications technology (ICT) is powering a revolution in digital learning, which has become one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. Mobile devices now allow students to access learning assets anytime, anywhere. Teachers are now using mobile devices for everything from literacy and numerical training to interactive tutoring. Indeed, mobile learning has the ability to help break down economic barriers, divides between rural and urban, as well as the gender divide. 


International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Digital technology is absolutely critical to accelerate the attainment of the SDG by 2030 and ensure that no one is left behind. Although ICT has been recognized as a strategic, and sector cross-cutting enabler for development, many people around the world are still not benefitting from its transformative power. Despite significant efforts towards ICT-enabled solutions for development, stakeholders are often operating and developing solutions in a ‘siloed’ manner, which leads to significant duplication and fragmentation of efforts, and affects resource effectiveness. Maximizing the leverage that digital technology can have on global development requires new ways of cooperation and pooling of efforts and resources among various stakeholders.

The “Mainstreaming ICT for SDG” project is a collaboration between International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) which aims to address existing challenges in achieving SDG targets by providing the guidance needed to decision-makers and donors investing in ICT. The project put forwards solutions for donors and other stakeholders including States and Tech entrepreneurs ​on how to maximize their Return on Investments (RoI) and accelerate progress towards the SDG by adopting a whole-of-government approach.

A whole-of-government approach to ICT investment is required in order to deliver impact at scale, and the SDG provides a strong strategic foundation for digital transformation that is integrated across government both horizontally and vertically. First, the interrelatedness of the SDGs provides an opportunity for common approaches and integration within and across institutions, creating an environment primed for systems-level, rather than project-level, thinking. Second, limited resources require a whole-of-government architectural approach that takes advantage of economies of scale that are not available to ICT implemented in a piecemeal fashion. The high cost of institutionalizing ICT solutions dictates that the number of ICT solutions needing to go to scale must be minimized as much as possible. Third, integration is necessary for government programming to reliably deliver end-to-end value to consumers at scale.
An SDG Digital Investment Framework was developed as an analytical guide to digital investment by identifying reusable ICT building blocks** to deliver priority SDG use cases. At the heart of the methodology is the notion that there are many recurring themes across the SDG targets. These themes also appear in the use cases that governments prioritize to deliver to achieve those targets. These use cases can be broken down into common functionality that can be implemented in multiple sectors (via workflows), with each workflow reusing the same underlying software components (called ICT building blocks). 

** Reusable ICT Building Blocks are technology components that provide an underlying, fundamental function in multiple software applications and systems, designed to be shared and re-purposed for the different use cases. Examples include specific database structures and information architectures, e-commerce platforms, messaging services, geographic information service (GIS), or digital identity management, among others.  ​

United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty. Over the past decade, major progress was made towards increasing access to education and school enrollment rates at all levels, particularly for girls. Nevertheless, about 260 million children were still out of school in 2018 — nearly one-fifth of the global population in that age group. And more than half of all children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. 

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 91 percent of students worldwide. By April 2020, close to 1.6 billion children and youth were out of school. And nearly 369 million children who rely on school meals needed to look to other sources for daily nutrition. 

Never before have so many children been out of school at the same time, disrupting learning and upending lives, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. The global pandemic has far-reaching consequences that may jeopardize hard-won gains made in improving global education.

COVID-19 response

In an effort to foster international collaboration and ensure that education never stops, UNESCO is mounting a response with a set of initiatives that include the global monitoring of national and localized school closures.

To protect the well-being of children and ensure they have access to continued learning, UNESCO in March 2020 launched the COVID-19 Global Education Coalition, a multi-sector partnership between the UN family, civil society organizations, media, and IT partners to design and deploy innovative solutions. Together they help countries tackle content and connectivity gaps, and facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children and youth during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption.

Specifically, the Global Education Coalition aims to:

  • Help countries in mobilizing resources and implementing innovative and context-appropriate solutions to provide education remotely, leveraging hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech approaches;
  • Seek equitable solutions and universal access;
  • Ensure coordinated responses and avoid overlapping efforts;
  • Facilitate the return of students to school when they reopen to avoid an upsurge in dropout rates. 

UNICEF also scaled up its work in 145 low- and middle-income countries to support governments and education partners in developing plans for a rapid, system-wide response including alternative learning programs and mental health support. 

Facts and Figures

Goal 4 Targets

4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes

4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education

4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

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

4.5 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

4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men, and women, achieve literacy and numeracy

4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

4.A Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability, and gender-sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive, and effective learning environments for all

4.B By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular, least developed countries, small island developing States, and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programs, in developed countries and other developing countries

4.C By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states


UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UN Children’s Fund

UN Development Programme

Global Education First Initiative

UN Population Fund: Comprehensive sexuality education

UN Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth

Send this to a friend