First UN report on Sustainable Development Goals sets benchmark for education

The first UN report on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals shows that despite progress being made in ensuring quality educational opportunities, efforts particularly for vulnerable children must be redoubled.

UNESCO has been entrusted to lead and coordinate the achievement of the stand-alone Goal 4 on education. One of the key findings in the report is that children are less likely to attend school if they live in rural areas, are poor or have parents with little or no education. 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 whom were girls. Children of primary school age from the poorest 20 per cent of households were more than four times as likely to be out of school as their richest peers.

Inequalities remain worldwide
Some of the data related to lifelong learning – a focus of the new international agenda – was hopeful.

Figures on early childhood showed that in 54 of 58 countries at least half of children aged 3 and 4 were developmentally on track in at least three of the following domains: literacy-numeracy, physical development, social-emotional development, and learning.

In upper secondary and tertiary education, the news was mixed. Although enrolments in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) rose by one-third between 2000 and 2013, the uptake for TVET alone fell from 26 per cent to 22 per cent. Tertiary education has expanded rapidly over the same period with enrolments doubling globally and increasing by 2.5 times in developing regions with almost equal numbers of men and women signing up.

However, inequalities remain worldwide. In 2013, there were still 757 million adults unable to read and write, of whom two-thirds were women. And in only 5 of the 22 countries in developing regions did at least 75 per cent of young people achieve the minimum proficiency in reading and/or mathematics – a much lower achievement than in more developed countries.

The importance of data

This data underscores the need for targeted action in support of the most marginalized. To make sure that these groups and individuals are identified, UNESCO Institute for Statistics this week launched an innovative e-Atlas designed to be one-stop shop for education data. Among other functions, the map gives detailed information on gender disparities, the relevance of education, the safety of the school environment, and the number of adults who are enrolled in primary education programmes. The tool will help guide policy to ensure educational opportunity for all.