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

Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  This goal supports the reduction of disparities and inequities in education, both in terms of access and quality. It recognizes the need to provide quality education for all, and most especially vulnerable populations, including poor children, children living in rural areas, persons with disabilities, indigenous people and refugee children.

This goal is of critical importance because of its transformative effects on the other SDGs. Sustainable development hinges on every child receiving a quality education. When children are offered the tools to develop to their full potential, they become productive adults ready to give back to their communities and break the cycle of poverty. Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility.

Significant progress was achieved during the last decade in increasing access to education and school enrolment rates at all levels, particularly for girls. Despite these gains, about 260 million children were out of school in 2018, nearly one fifth of the global population in that age group. Furthermore, more than half of all children and adolescents worldwide are failing to meet minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.

UNICEF’s contribution towards reaching this goal centres on equity and inclusion to provide all children with quality learning opportunities and skills development programmes, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF works with governments worldwide to raise the quality and inclusiveness of schools.  

UNICEF is custodian for global monitoring of Indicator 4.2.1 Percentage of children (aged 24–59 months) developmentally on track in at least 3 of the 4 following domains: literacy-numeracy, physical, socio-emotional and learning.

Child-related SDG indicators

TARGET 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

TARGET 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

TARGET 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

Key asks

For every child to learn, UNICEF has eight key asks of governments:

  1. A demonstration of how the SDG 4 global ambitions are being nationalized into plans, policies, budgets, data collection efforts and reports.
  2. A renewed commitment to education to recover learning losses and manage impacts of COVID-19.
  3. The implementation and scaling of digital learning solutions and innovations to reimagine education.
  4. Attention to skills development should be a core component to education.
  5. Focus to provide quality education to the most vulnerable – including girls, children affected by conflict and crisis, children with disabilities, refugees and displaced children.
  6. A continued commitment to improving access to pre-primary, primary and secondary education for all, including for children from minority groups and those with disabilities.
  7. A renewed focus on learning outcomes and their enablers, including learning in safe and adequate environments, support by well-trained teachers and structured content.
  8. The implementation of SDG-focused learning throughout schools to raise awareness and inspire positive action.

Learn more about UNICEF’s key asks for implementing Goal 4