The Challenge

Sustainable Development Goal 4 more closely reflects the Education for All movement, recognising and emphasising that all levels of education are interrelated. However, there are several challenges which may undermine the community’s ability to reach the targets by 2030:

  • The ambitious language of targets could lead to groups being left behind and provide the greatest benefit to the most advantaged students. Categories of vulnerability mentioned in the targets do not include poverty, even though the greatest inequality in education is between the richest and poorest households
  • Several of the targets cannot be adequately measured and lack specificity and clarity in how they are defined, threatening accountability and leaving the expected outcomes ambiguous
  • The new target for all countries to attain universal upper secondary education by 2030 is unrealistic – projections for this report suggest that this target will not be achieved this century on current trends. Targets that have little chance of being met in a 15 year time-frame are unlikely to receive political commitment, support and cooperation
  • National resources will not be sufficient to meet the basic education targets by 2030. The total external financing gap is projected to average US$22 billion annually between 2015 and 2030. Almost half of this, or US$10.6 billion pertains to low income countries
  • Projections indicate that aid to education will stagnate over the next few years. To achieve basic education targets by 2030, the level of external assistance to low and lower middle income countries would need to increase by at least four times

To achieve the equity orientation of the new agenda, countries will need to improve their targeting of policies and resources and adapt inequality indicators to their respective national context.