Getting the world back on track

9 July 2019

The world is off track in achieving the global goal on education, including in adult literacy, according to a UNESCO report launched today at the High-Level Political Forum in New York.

The UNESCO projections, published in Meeting Commitments: Are countries on track to achieve SDG 4?, show that the countries of the world will fail to meet the commitments of Sustainable Development Goal 4 – ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ – unless there is serious progress over the coming decade.

The report found that, on current trends, one-sixth of 6 to 17-year-olds will still be excluded from school in 2030, while 40 per of children worldwide will fail to complete secondary education (50 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa).

Furthermore, 30 per cent of adults and 20 per cent of young people in low-income countries are projected still to be unable to read by the target date for the elimination of illiteracy.

At current trends, learning rates are expected to stagnate in middle-income countries and drop by almost a third in Francophone African countries by 2030.

Mr David Atchoarena, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, said: ‘These figures are a wake-up call to the international community and demonstrate just how far we have to go to fulfil the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to “leave no-one behind”. The projections make troubling reading, particularly given the connected nature of the SDGs, and the close connection between the goal on education and lifelong learning and those, for example, on gender equality, climate change and health.’

The projections raise a ‘warning flag’ about the slow pace of progress globally but also represent an opportunity to get the world back on track, to ensure countries’ education plans are equal to the commitments they have made and to find new ways to produce the data countries need in order to target their efforts effectively.

The targets of SDG 4 do not stand alone and need to be addressed holistically, from a lifelong learning perspective, acknowledging the need for cross-sectoral collaboration and educational opportunity throughout life.

A complementary report, Beyond Commitments: How countries implement SDG 4, stresses the need for inclusive policies, better data and increased financing to drive national progress, urging Member States to expand ‘opportunities for learning at all stages, in multiple learning spaces, to build more flexible pathways between work and learning as well as between formal and non-formal education’.

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