Global Education Targets Will Be Missed

Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All

Every child has the right to an education and education is essential for the exercise of all other human rights; it promotes freedom, transforms lives, and can break the cycle of poverty. A gateway for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), education leads to improved health outcomes, more gender equality, and less violence. More important, education is essential to better understand why sustainable development is such an important concept for everyone’s future. Despite the importance of education, the global target of ensuring that all children worldwide complete primary and secondary education is anticipated to be missed by decades; in the case of upper secondary education, the 2030 SDG target is anticipated to be missed by over half a century.

UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, Education for People and the Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All, indicates that the world will not achieve universal primary education until 2042, universal secondary education until 2059, and universal upper secondary education until 2084. The poorest nations are projected to achieve universal primary education a century later than the richest nations.

According to the report, education systems would need a major transformation to meet the current challenges facing the planet and humanity. For example, education systems need to increase their actions to address environmental issues; over half of the curricula globally do not explicitly mention environmental sustainability or climate change in their content, and only 40% of 15-year-old students have basic knowledge about environmental issues. The report emphasizes the importance of nations’ education systems being able to provide their students with the necessary skills and knowledge to find new solutions for environmental issues. Education should foster green skills that support sustainable development to protect the planet and people.

To achieve sustainable development, education should continue beyond the school walls. The focus on learning should permeate life—in the home, in the community, and in the workplace. Every person should have the right to lifelong learning opportunities to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to their society. According to the UNESCO report, however, two-thirds of all adults lack financial literacy, and only 6% of adults in the poorest nations have ever attended a literacy program.

Education is at the heart of sustainable development and is vital for achieving all of the SDGs targets. Progress toward every development goal will be hindered, however, unless education rates improve, learning becomes a lifelong process, and education systems fully embrace sustainable development.

For more information:

The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report, formerly known as the Education for All Global Monitoring Report), is an evidence-based annual report published by UNESCO. It monitors progress toward the education targets in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework. Go here to download the report.

Anne Bauer