One-third of the way to the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, new projections prepared by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEMR) for the UN High-level Political Forum show that the world will fail its education commitments without a rapid acceleration of progress. In 2030, when all children should be in school, one in six aged around 6-17 will still be excluded. Many children are still dropping out: by 2030, only six out of ten young people will be completing secondary education.

The global education goal, SDG 4, calls on countries to ensure that children are not only going to school but also learning, yet the proportion of trained teachers in sub-Saharan Africa has been falling since 2000, according to the new projections, which are released in the publication Meeting Commitments: Are countries on track to achieve SDG 4?. The publication is also available in French and Spanish.

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. It is expected that, without rapid acceleration, 20% of young people and 30% of adults in low-income countries will still be unable to read by the deadline.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes leaving no one behind yet only 4% of the poorest 20% complete upper secondary school in low-income countries, compared to 36% of the richest. The gap is even wider in lower-middle-income countries.

The UIS and GEMR propose six steps to accelerate progress by looking beyond ‘business as usual’:

  1. Beyond averages: Sharpen the focus on equity to ensure that nobody is left behind
    • Governments should finance household surveys and improve collaboration between education ministries and statistical offices to target policies towards those in danger of being left behind.
    • International partners should coordinate funding for household surveys and pool resources to make good use of the information that is already available.
  1. Beyond access: Focus on learning and its monitoring, not just on the number of children in classrooms
    • Governments should finance national assessments to inform policy, curricula and teacher training, and fund participation in regional or international assessments.
    • International partners should coordinate funding for learning assessments to lower costs and support the development of national assessment capacity.
  2. Beyond basics: Expand the content of education beyond reading, writing and mathematics to embed the learning needed for healthy and prosperous societies
    • Governments should finance the analysis of national curricula and textbooks to identify areas for improvement and alignment with the SDGs, from gender equality and human rights to the skills needed for decent jobs.
    • International partners should coordinate research and policy dialogue to explore how learners can make better use of their knowledge as agents of change.
  3. Beyond schooling: Expand the focus to include adults
    • Governments should finance labour force surveys and direct assessments to understand how skills are distributed across populations and to inform the design of education and training programmes.
    • International partners should coordinate improvements in labour force survey questions on youth and adult education and training.
  1. Beyond education: Improve cross-sectoral cooperation  
    • Governments and international partners should work together to develop key indicators, such as those related to early childhood development and other factors that have a major influence on education.
  1. Beyond countries: Enhance regional and international coordination
    1. Governments and international partners should work together in regional and global fora, such as the Technical Cooperation Group (TCG), which discusses SDG 4 benchmarks, methodologies and the financing of data collection and helps broker between countries and donors to promote information sharing.