Development starts with Education
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. – Kofi Annan
SDG 4 has placed the world in front of a major challenge: ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, by 2030. A report published by Unicef in April 2019, entitled “A world ready to learn: prioritizing quality early childhood education,” showed a worrying picture: over 175 million children worldwide are excluded from quality pre-primary education. This issue especially affects low-income countries, where only one child out of five is enrolled in pre-primary school. Based on the data, in high-income countries, 83 percent of children are attending a pre-primary education programme, compared to only 22 percent in low-income countries.
Poverty, in fact, is the strongest factor that affects children’s attendance in early childhood education. But why is pre-primary education so important? As pointed out by the United Nations, a pre-primary education of good quality is the foundation to ensure the future success of children and that of those who will follow in their footsteps. It will bring significant benefits to children, families, the education system and society in general. Moreover, students who receive a quality early education are better equipped for the transition to primary school. In regards to this, 22 percent of children worldwide are excluded from primary education and, even the ones who are attending it, are lacking basic skills in reading and math. Despite all of this, over the last decade, major progress has been made in order to increase enrollment rates at all levels, especially for women and girls. In addition, basic literacy skills have improved meaningfully.
However, it’s clear that this is not sufficient. If on one hand gender equality in primary education has been achieved worldwide, on the other hand only few countries have reached that target at all levels of education. The lack of quality education is due to different reasons, such as unskilled teachers, poor conditions in schools and the lack of equal opportunities for rural children. So, if we want to reduce the gaps in educational scholarships, more investments are needed, in order to provide safe learning environments, water and electricity access overall.
According to the U.N., countries worldwide can achieve SDG 4 by following these targets:
- ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, so that they are ready for primary education;
- ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university;
- eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including people with disabilities, indigenous people and children in vulnerable situations;
- provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all;
- increase the supply of qualified teachers, including international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries.
Nowadays education is not just a fundamental human right, but it is also an indispensable opportunity to achieve self-realization, sustainable economic development, gender equality and a more active and responsible citizenship. For these reasons, education seems to be a catalyst for development, a way to accelerate the achievement of the other SDGs.
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