Quality Education (SDG 4) And Its Importance In The Modern World

Global Goal 4: Quality Education

Inclusive, equitable and good quality education at all levels is extremely necessary for the personal growth of a child and the development of the nation, be it in their personal sense of achievement and self-respect, their economic self-sustenance, or their contribution to the nation’s economic, scientific and humanitarian welfare. However, it is clear from reliable statistics that this is simply not being provided to every child. According to UIS Data, about 258 million children and youth are out of school, the total comprising of 59 million children of primary school age, 62 million of lower secondary school age and 138 million of upper secondary age. There is a crying need for national, international and state legislations to take into consideration these figures. 

SDG 4, which calls upon member countries to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” attempts to encapsulate this need and bring home its urgency. Inter alia, SDG 4 targets that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. It specifically speaks of the eradication of gender bias in the attainment of education not only at the primary level, but at all levels, and also advocates the equipment of technical and vocational skills in students, for employment and entrepreneurship. It advocates a focus on differently-abled and economically less privileged children, and calls upon nations to build education systems keeping them in mind. The goal does not stop at the lower levels of schooling, also advocating a focus on higher education in developing countries. 


When comparing India’s performance to the guidelines set in the SDGs, it is clear that India today is quite far from being 100% literate (around 75%), whereas SDG 4.1 envisions complete, high quality education to all children by 2030 – literacy is not the same as education, though quite important in itself. However, strides have been, and are still being taken by India in this area. The net enrolment ratio in primary education for boys and girls was at 100% (in line with Target 4.5), while the youth literacy rate is at 94% for males and 92% for females. 

With the above statistics in mind, it is important to understand SDG 8’s importance, on its own and in conjunction with the other SDGs. A literate and educated workforce goes miles in making a nation socially, economically and culturally progressive and self-reliant, and affects many other socio-economic conditions in the country. In the same vein, it becomes clear upon close inspection that the achievement of SDG 4 is both contingent on, and beneficial for the achievement of the other SDGs. The attainment of quality education opens up the doors for children to sustainable and reliable employment. This is even more necessary today – where jobs which simply require hard labour are being conveniently automated, it is the professions that require literacy, education and analytical ability that are not only surviving, but thriving (please refer to my previous article: “The Rise of the Machines, and its Effect on Employment (SDG-8)” for further insights on the same). Therefore, as SDG 4 begins contributing to SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), it also gives people and households the means to lift themselves out of poverty (SDG 1), fill their stomachs with nutritious and enriching food (SDG-2), and many more SDGs. 

The importance of SDG 4 cannot be overstated – we need not only literacy, but education; we need education that prepares a child not only to learn a formula or do quick math (though that is not necessarily useless), but also to become a rounded, happy, productive citizen, and to use their newfound knowledge to contribute to the sustainable development of the world. After all, as the adage goes, the power to change lies in the pen, not the sword. 


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