The fourth UN (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goal focuses on Quality Education. The goal is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
- According to the UN, achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.
- Even when children and youth go to school, often they are not learning. According to the UN, in 2018, more than half of children and adolescents worldwide are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics.
- Increased educational attainment accounts for about 50 percent of the economic growth in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD countries over the past 50 years, over half of which is due to girls experiencing greater access to education.
- Many companies are already responding to this opportunity. Education is the issue most commonly addressed by company actions taken to advance UN goals, demonstrating that the business community views education as a top global development priority.
- A target of the Quality Education Goal is to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations. Progress has been tough in some developing regions due to high levels of poverty, armed conflicts and other emergencies. Pearson, a British-owned educational publishing, tools and assessment company, is working to address this through their Every Child Learning partnership. They are funding Save the Children, an international non-profit organization helping children in need around the world, to establish two informal education centers in Amman, Jordan.These centers expect to support 1,400 Syrian refugees and host community children aged between 5 and 13 years old to integrate into the formal education system. Pearson is also investing £1 million in the co-creation of new product and program solutions to improve the quality of education for refugee and host community children in Jordan.The ambition is that solutions can be adapted, scaled, and replicated in other emergency and conflict-affected contexts.
- Another challenge is that educational disparities between rural and urban areas remain high.In 2010, Ericsson partnered with the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Millennium Promise to launch “Connect To Learn,” an education initiative that has provided scholarships and information and communication technologies to schools in remote, impoverished areas worldwide. The project has been implemented in 22 countries and has improved the lives of 50,000 students, especially girls. In another partnership, Ericsson is providing teenage girls in Sri Lanka’s farming communities with information and communication technologies and computer literacy education.
- The definition of quality education is evolving. Today’s rapidly changing, technology-driven world and knowledge-based economies call for new types and levels of skills and competencies. Insufficient opportunities to access appropriate learning and acquire skills in information and communication technologies are resulting in a knowledge divide among and within countries, with major economic and employment consequences.
- As part of its affordable access initiative, Microsoft works with partners around the world to deploy cost-effective connectivity solutions for schools and communities to address this problem. Through these projects 104 K-12 schools and 9 universities on 5 continents have been connected to the Internet, covering a population of over 400,000 people.
- Often, the challenges addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals can overlap. One such illustration is the link between education and health outcomes. A child’s nutrition levels affect learning outcomes, and levels of education have a dramatic impact on access to health, wellness and life expectancy. Poor nutrition can affect brain development and the ability to learn. In 2009, Nestlé launched the Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Programme, which aims to raise nutrition and health knowledge and promote physical activity among school-age children. Healthy Kids is implemented in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders at the school and local level and it reached more than 7 million children in 2014. An indirect impact of Healthy Kids is strengthening education systems through the work it undertakes with education authorities, schools and its partners. Nestlé found that Healthy Kids helps build capacity within schools and it also improves the efficiency of education collaborations through the partnerships it helps create.
- In summary, sustainable development begins with education since full access to quality education at all levels is the key that will allow many other Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved. It is also good business. The business case to invest in education includes developing the capacity of future employees and building a more diverse employee pipeline. Education can help address the mismatch between skills of the available workforce and job vacancies, which is a key problem in many markets.
- As the previous example illustrate, many businesses are serious about making a commitment to quality education and are collaborating with local partners to have maximum impact globally.
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