The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Series: Goal 4

G4Goal Four: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

This SDG is the extension of the second Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving universal primary education. It has been acknowledged since the creation of the MDGs that there should probably be a more broad focus on education rather than just primary education, which is why SDG Four emphasizes primary, secondary and tertiary education, as well as vocational and technical training. Sub-Saharan Africa was on track to achieve MDG Two with the net primary enrolment at 100% in 2013, yet, according to the UNDP MDG Progress Report for Africa 2015, only 67% of children are likely to complete primary school. According to the report: “This poor performance in primary completion is due to a number of factors including insufficient education infrastructure, limited choice for girls and other vulnerable social groups, inadequate consideration of the reality of traditionally hard-to-reach groups such as nomadic people, persons with disabilities, and children from disadvantaged economic and ethnic groups. The insufficient number of qualified teachers and the lack of relevant curricula to meet the needs of these groups are also root causes of the poor quality of education.”

Aside from enrolment rates, this goal emphasizes literacy for the population, especially the youth, which have a literacy rate of about 70% in Africa, according to UNDP data for 2012. This goal also focuses on equity between girls and boys in education.. Another interesting emphasis of this goal is its focus on life-long learning, which again acknowledges that work should be done on education beyond primary school. For example, target 4.4 (see below for all proposed targets) notes that individuals must acquire the skills needed for employment after completing their education rather than just saying education is successful because enrolment is at  100%. This part, however, is slightly more difficult to measure since looking just at unemployment won’t illustrate whether or not those leaving school are employable.

Proposed Targets:

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

4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary 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 portion 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, non-violent, 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 programmes, 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

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

For the next few weeks, UONGOZI Institute will be running a special blog series on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We begin the series with this introductory post describing the SDGs and the processes that are underway to put the goals into action. The blog will feature in-depth pieces on each of the seventeen goals thereafter.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were initiated as part of the outcome document drafted at the close of the Rio+20 conference, formally the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in June 2012. The United Nations member states were party to this document, titled The Future We Want, and mutually agreed that work must be done to establish the SDGs for the post-2015 development agenda. Now that the list of goals has been established, the United Nations General Assembly will meet in September of this year to formally approve the SDGs and put them into action. Thus, making all member states of the United Nations the actors responsible for the creation and execution of the SDGs.


The SDGs were drafted to serve as the guide to the global development agenda at the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. The MDGs were established in 2000 to align the global development agenda. As the MDGs wind down, the SDGs will be used instead as a basis for planning the next phase of development. The SDGs, however, will have a global focus, as opposed to the MDGs which focused solely on developing countries. As the United Nations approves the seventeen goals outlined to be the SDGs, Governments will likely incorporate them into their own national agendas as they did with the MDGs.


The work on creating the SDGs began in 2012, as mentioned above, at the behest of the Rio+20 meeting. Since then, an Open Working Group has spent a great deal of time conducting the necessary work to establish the seventeen goals in a proposal released in August 2014. Since then, there has been discussion and debate on the proposed goals in the lead up to their adoption in September 2015 by the UN General Assembly. The SDGs would therefore be enacted in 2015, with the timeline of achieving the goals through 2030.


The SDGs were drafted to continue the work begun under the auspices of the MDGs and refine the lessons learned from that fifteen year period of development. The goals are meant to help organize the numerous needs of the world at large in a way that helps countries and regions to focus on those which are most important for their future. By aligning the global narrative on development through the SDGs, the hope is that they can be achieved through partnership and mutual responsibility.


As mentioned throughout, there are seventeen goals currently proposed to make up the SDGs. These are: 1) End poverty in all forms everywhere; 2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; 3) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; 4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; 5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; 6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; 7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; 8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; 9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; 10) Reduce inequality within and among countries; 11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; 12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; 13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; 14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development; 15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; 16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels; and 17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. These goals will serve as the basis by which all development planning will be made throughout the next fifteen years. Seeing them through will be coordinated at all levels, from local governments to international agencies, based on what the goal entails.

More information:

The SDG Processes

UN Sustainable Development Goals Page

Sustainable Development Solutions Network


The Common African Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda