Everyone has a right to quality education. It’s how we help ourselves and our communities grow. That is why Goal 4 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) is quality education, and it feeds into many other goals.
So what are the challenges of quality education? Well, the UN states that the biggest issue is the lack of resources and teacher training. This is particularly true in rural areas (mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa), where, for example, there is an average of one mathematics book per three or more children). Schools face issues such as lack of water, sanitation and crumbling infrastructure.
Quality education affects other sustainability goals. Without quality education in place, many of the other goals become less sustainable. Education helps each step evolve.
Giving everyone access to quality education helps bridge the gap in gender inequality (Goal 5: Gender Equality). With quality education, we can work towards peace (Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). Ultimately achieving the goals of quality education can help to improve the quality of lives (Goal 1: No Poverty).
Quality education and Goal 5: Gender Equality
Out of the 750 million adults who still remain illiterate, two thirds of them are women. With antiquated gender roles enforced on women and girls, many do not have access to the same quality of education that their male counterparts have.
Higher education in particular is where most women are cut off. Two contributing factors to this are teenage pregnancy and child marriages. Often these girls are denied access to quality higher education, decreasing their employability and independence. A reported 95% of the world’s adolescent births come from low- to middle-income countries.
When women can access their right to quality education, it gives them more independence and freedom. Women can then also help future generations improve their education, which ensures quality education is sustainable. With more women in the classroom, the global effects of women’s education can be realised sooner.
When educational opportunities for women are in place, it’s a step towards breaking down gender stereotypes. Women will not just be seen as household caregivers once they are able to access all the elements of good quality education. There is a sense of fostering a greater respect for all members of a community, helping to work towards a unified society.
Quality education and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong institutions
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. When thinking about the goals of quality education and working towards peace, this saying applies but with a different effect. Having knowledge about other cultures, genders and religions helps to overcome barriers.
This is the view that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took when looking at preventing violent extremism.
Though there is still room for improvement and more study, UNESCO found that when involved in activities such as peer to peer learning, individuals were more open-minded about gender, different cultures and religions. Quality education was the key to achieving this.
One of Goal 16’s targets is to implement non-discriminatory laws promoting sustainable peace. One way to scale down on discrimination is through education. Peer to peer learning is a great example of how this can be achieved.
Volunteers on GVI’s programs learn more about different cultures when they play a role within different communities. Education and understanding go hand in hand, whether this is to prevent violent crimes or to learn more about the many cultures in our global community.
Quality education and Goal 1: No Poverty
Achieving Goal 5 will have so many important benefits, from advancing gender equality and bringing communities together. It will also work towards achieving Goal 1, which involves ending poverty in all its forms.
The education commission reports that if things continue as they are, by 2030, 69% of children from low-income countries will not learn basic primary-level skills.
With many children from low-income families coming to school sick, hungry or tired from household duties, their financial situation is blocking them from having quality education. This is one of the factors that contributes to 617 million children and adults lacking proficiency in reading and mathematics.
Poverty and inability to access quality education form a cycle. With lower-income families finding it hard to access quality education, it is far more difficult to improve their income prospects.
Classrooms must provide the support, supervision and safe environment children need to thrive. With this support system in place, it’s a step in the right direction to break the cycle. Giving more students, whether they are children or adults, access to quality education works towards a more sustainable future. Educating each generation helps them to form a new cycle.
What GVI is doing to work towards Goal 4: Quality Education
As we have seen, elements of good quality education feed into so many other UN SDGs. GVI is working hard to make sure progress is made on our teaching and other relevant programs (such as women’s empowerment).
In 2016, GVI released a report on an education project in Kerala that showed how it had improved its pupil assessment. Quality education involves helping each pupil thrive on their own targets. Breaking down and tracking each student’s progress has been one of the ways these teaching programs have helped each child in the various classrooms.
GVI does not only teach in local schools. We also offer workshops and training sessions to adults in communities. Overall, 15,203 people had gone through these training sessions, workshops and classes.
Everyone has the right to quality education. It is part of how women gain their independence. Quality education helps people learn more about tolerance of different cultures. Ultimately, education is key to eliminating poverty and helping affected communities thrive.
Feel you might want to take part in working with GVI towards Goal 4? Why not sign up for one of GVI’s teaching projects? You can see first-hand the challenges faced in classrooms, and be a part of the solution to ensuring everyone has access to quality education opportunities.