SDG 4: Targets and Indicators

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.1.1: Proportion of children and young people: (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.2.1: Proportion of children under 5 years of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being, by sex
  • Indicator 4.2.2: Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by sex

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

  • Indicator 4.3.1: Participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.4.1: Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.5.1: Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected, as data become available) for all education indicators on this list that can be disaggregated

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

  • Indicator 4.6.1: Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.7.1: Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed at all levels in: (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.A.1: Proportion of schools with access to: (a) electricity; (b) the Internet for pedagogical purposes; (c) computers for pedagogical purposes; (d) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities; (e) basic drinking water; (f) single-sex basic sanitation facilities; and (g) basic handwashing facilities (as per the WASH indicator definitions)

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.B.1: Volume of official development assistance flows for scholarships by sector and type of study

Target 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

  • Indicator 4.C.1: Proportion of teachers in: (a) pre-primary; (b) primary; (c) lower secondary; and (d) upper secondary education who have received at least the minimum organized teacher training (e.g. pedagogical training) pre-service or in-service required for teaching at the relevant level in a given country

Where to find data?

The Technical Cooperation Group on the Indicators for SDG 4 – Education 2030 (TCG) was established in 2016 to provide a platform to discuss and develop indicators to monitor the Education 2030 Agenda. The TCG is composed of 35 regionally representative members of Member States, multilateral agencies and civil society groups, in addition to the Co-Chair of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) hosts the TCG Secretariat. There is a rotation of the TCG members every two years and members are elected based on UNESCO’s official electoral regional groupings. The TCG works in tandem with the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) to make recommendations on indicator development, and to use the different data sources through cooperation across partnerships.

The information found on the web of the TCG adds 32 thematic indicators to the global indicators presented here. They were developed by the Technical Advisory Group on Post-2015 Education Indicators (TAG) established by UNESCO in March 2014 to elaborate a proposal for a set of indicators to monitor the education goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The data explorer allows us to obtain data for all these indicators, below an example for Indicator 4.1.1.

SDG 4: Quality Education

Education plays an essential role in the journey to Sustainable Development. The Goal’s longer title pleads for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

It therefore focuses on the acquisition of foundational and higher-order skills at all stages of education and development; greater and more equitable access to quality education at all levels as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET); and the knowledge, skills and values needed to function well, contribute to society and to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.

In this 21st century over 265 million children are still out of school and 22% of them are of primary school age. Additionally, even the children who are attending schools are lacking basic skills in reading and math.

In the past decade, major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrollment rates in schools particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides for achieving universal education goals. For example, the world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.

The reasons for lack of quality education are due to lack of adequately trained teachers, poor conditions of schools and equity issues related to opportunities provided to rural children.

Despite years of steady growth in enrollment rates, non-proficiency rates remain disturbingly high. Globally, an estimated 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age— more than 55% of the global total—lacked minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics in 2015. Non-proficiency rates are highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia, where more than 80% of children of primary and lower secondary school age were not proficient in reading.

Children out of primary education

Despite progress, the world failed to meet the MDG of universal primary education by 2015. In 2013, the latest year for which data are available, 59 million children of primary school age and 65 million adolescents of lower secondary age were out of school. Most of them were girls.

Survey data from 63 low- and middle-income countries between 2008 and 2012 show that children of primary school age from the poorest 20% of households were more than four times as likely to be out of school as their richest peers. Children, especially girls, from households headed by someone with less than a primary education were more than four times as likely to be out of school as children from households headed by someone with a secondary or higher education.

Fundamental skills

Quality education should lead to the acquisition of fundamental skills, such as literacy and numeracy, and higher level skills.

The end of lower secondary school often coincides with the end of compulsory education. By this stage, students should be able to master subject-related knowledge and skills, possess personal and social skills and have a solid foundation for further learning throughout life.

Data from 38 countries in the developed regions show that, in the majority of these countries, at least 75% of young people achieved at least minimum proficiency in reading and/or mathematics; the same was true for only 5 of the 22 countries with data in developing regions.

Regarding the issue of Sustainable Development, this set of fundamental skills is surely needed, but a true Education for Sustainable Development, with the final aim of global citizenship, requires a deep understanding that what we do today can have implications on the lives of people and the planet in future. ESD is at the heart of this SDG and also of action programmes led by the UNESCO. An essential part is to include sustainable development issues in the curriculum and make sure that we acquire knowledge, skills, values and behaviours needed for sustainable development.

What does this mean and what does this look like?

In order to ensure that education creates the highest impact in the lives of all of us, it is vital that children finish at least their primary and secondary education. Again the worst scenarios can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, but I would like to have a look at another region in this case.

I want to invite you to visit Western Asia, specifically the South Caucasus. There we find Armenia, a country which gained its independence from Russia in 1991, but which has its unique and long-standing history, being even the first country to adopt Christian religion.

There the number of children out of school has followed an interesting evolution. In 2017 the percentage of children out of primary education was 7.69%, with a low in the year 2007 of 2.92%. Regarding school enrollment in secondary education the percentage is 83.15%.

Efforts are under way to improve this situation and offer us curious images, of run-down buildings, children with universal T-shirt prints surrounded by poetic landscapes.

Inside an Armenian school

The song Imagine in Armenian

Colours of Armenia