Sustainable Development Goals and Education

In 2000, the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set eight development targets to be achieved by 2015. Each goal had associated metrics and timelines.

In addition to mixed success, the goals prompted debate about whether the best, most legitimate eight goals were chosen. There was a parallel debate around the chosen success metrics.

Despite the shortcomings or disputes, however, the MDGs are widely credited with increasing attention, funding, and coordination around fundamentally important global milestones.

As the end of the 15 year window approached, the United Nations launched a follow-on effort entitled the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Careful to avoid criticism of a hasty selection of targets, the UN considered literally hundreds of possible goals, eventually (and painfully) winnowing down to 17 goals — including 169 “targets” and 304 “indicators”. (The large number of goals, targets and indicators unleashed a new wave of criticism.)

Making the “final cut” of 17 goals is #4 / Education, which reads:

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

Countries are making mixed progress towards this goal. Some have already achieved it (Canada, Iran, China, Sri Lanka), while others remain far from the goal. The greatest challenge is across sub-Saharan Africa, where over thirty countries have major challenges ahead.

Confronting these challenges will require many strategies. Certainly linking the next million schools to the internet should be the highest of priorities.

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