It is safe to say that universal access to quality education is a key factor in achieving a sustainable mid and long-term future. Several studies conducted over the years have linked lack of access to education with poverty and poverty traps. This is hardly a surprise —in current society, possession of specific practical skills may determine if a person does or doesn’t get a job, which can cause a direct impact on their economic stability. At its most basic level, education provides skills that are essential to life as we know it. Literacy and numeracy are needed for things as simple as grocery shopping or keeping the house finances.
Moreover, access to quality education generates a snowball effect. Education has been linked to parents who are more capable of providing quality care for their children and making better use of the health —and other social—services available to them (UN Chronicle, 2007). Also, girls who have access to at least basic education are more likely to make sensible choices regarding reproduction and to send their children to school.
For the world to achieve true sustainability by 2030 —as contemplated in the Agenda for Sustainable Development— quality education must be universally accessible and learning must be encouraged in order to “develop understanding and judgement, and enable action” (Infed, W/D). Significant progress has been made in the last 20 years regarding this matter, but there’s still a long way to go, which is the target of Global Goal 4.
GLOBAL GOAL 4: ENSURE INCLUSIVE AND EQUITABLE QUALITY EDUCATION AND PROMOTE LIFELONG LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
- Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
- Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education.
- Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.
- Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
- Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access of all levels of education and vocational training or the vulnerable.
- Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults achieve literacy and numeracy.
- Ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.
The aim of the Agenda is that not one person will be forsaken in the quest for sustainability. Naturally, this means that all people will harvest the fruits of a society that can sustain itself in time; a society that is resilient, inclusive, innovative and versatile. However, this also means that everyone will have an active role in planning and achieving that future, and education is at the center of it. Below are the general guidelines for all countries to follow in the process of ensuring quality education for their citizens in order to produce true sustainability:
- Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.
- By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programs in developed and other developing countries.
- Substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries.
Quality education is not a privilege, and should not be treated as such. It is a need. It is a determining factor in the sustainable advancement of individuals, families and communities. Providing universal access to quality education ensures that people will have the tools to create a better future for themselves, those around them and future generations.