Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
The fouth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)

Quality Education

Aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Let's learn a little more about SDG 4.

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Why Is It Important To Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities For All?

The ultimate purpose of education, as with the purpose of life, can be expressed as "happiness".

The word ‘happiness’ here refers to the sense of fulfilment that comes from developing and deepening one's humanity, rather than a more superficial state of simply being untroubled or having one's desires realized. 

Education, therefore, is not just about amassing degrees and knowledge, rather, it is the foundation for leading a happy, creative, and empowered life; one that is free of judgements, biases, ignorance, or discrimination of any kind. 

As the famous Tibetan proverb goes, “A child without education is like a bird without wings.” Education liberates us from the confines of our narrow self and empowers us to broaden our horizon and lead truly meaningful and fulfilling lives.


SGI President Daisaku Ikeda shares, "The essential responsibility of education is to foster in the m...

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda shares, "The essential responsibility of education is to foster in the minds of youth a love of humanity and a spirit to dedicate oneself for the sake of the people and for society."

It follows that quality and equitable education is critical to understand and address the complex and convergent nature of the global challenges confronting us today. 

Besides, Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty. 

Education helps reduce inequalities and reach gender equality and is crucial to fostering tolerance and more peaceful societies.

Education plays a central role in equipping learners with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to create a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable and equitable world for all to thrive. SDG 4 recognises education as a human right, playing a transversal role in realizing any and all of the 17 SDGs. 

Without Education, we cannot build a truly just, happy, liberated and free world, nor achieve any of the other SDGs.


In the words of Daisaku Ikeda, “The true purpose of education is to develop human beings. It is th...

In the words of Daisaku Ikeda, “The true purpose of education is to develop human beings. It is the process of using knowledge as sustenance for fostering people who can demonstrate infinite creativity and self-reliance. Gaining knowledge is indispensable for guiding a changing society, but knowledge itself is not the same as creativity. Education must enable us to manifest our inner potential, and learning is just a catalyst for drawing that out.” 

The underlying spirit of SDG 4, in the words of Ikeda, is to Learn, Reflect and Empower. He writes:

“I believe the decade of education for sustainable development should be promoted with the following three goals in mind

  • To learn and deepen awareness of environmental issues and realities. 

  • To reflect on our modes of living, renewing these toward sustainability. 

  • To empower people to take concrete action to resolve the challenges we face.”

What Progress Has Been Made So Far In Terms Ensuring Quality Education For All?

Over the past decade major progress has been made on several fronts, such as:

  • The primary school completion rate reached 84% in 2018, rising from 70% in 2000. Under current trends, it is expected to reach 89 per cent globally by 2030. 

  • From 2011-2019, in 74 countries with comparable data, around 7 in 10 children aged 3 and 4 were developmentally on track in at least three of the following domains: literacy-numeracy, physical development, social-emotional development and learning. 

  • The global adult literacy rate (for ages 15 years and beyond) was 86% in 2018, while the youth literacy rate (between ages 15 and 24 years) was 92%.

What Hurdles Is The World Facing Today In Terms Of Providing Quality Education For All?

The progress towards inclusive and equitable quality education remains too slow. 

One in three children and young people is out of school in countries impacted by war or natural disasters (UNESCO report, 2018). 

In 2018, some 773 million adults—two-thirds of whom are women—remained illiterate in terms of reading and writing skills. And the sheer magnitude of school closures due to COVID-19 is likely to set back progress on access to education.

Even before Covid-19, one in five children and adolescents was entirely excluded from education. 

Furthermore, the rapid transition to online or hybrid modality of learning has widened the equity ga...

Furthermore, the rapid transition to online or hybrid modality of learning has widened the equity gap by excluding students from socio-economically vulnerable sections of society. 

Structural issues such as poor living conditions, economic distress, or parents’ low education and digital skills also affect students’ learning (UNESCO, Global Education Monitoring Report, 2020).

Women and girls continue to face major difficulty in having access to even primary education. About one-third of countries in the developing regions have not achieved gender parity in primary education. 

These disadvantages in education also translate into lack of access to skills and limited opportunities in the labour market for young women.


How Can I As An Individual Apply Sustainable Human Behaviour To Achieve These Targets For SDG 4 To Help Achieve The Goal Of Quality Education?
  • Develop a habit of regularly reading oneself and a constant spirit of learning and development.
  • Build a culture of reading and increasing awareness amongst family members and peers.
  • Support the education of the poor by teaching them for free.
  • Sponsor the education of at least 1 person per year who can't afford it for themself.
  • Reach out to businesses and governments and urge them to provide free primary and secondary education to all as a priority 
  • Use your voice to promote the education of girls, and of the differently-abled.
  • Check in with the domestic workers, labour, drivers, cooks etc employed by you in your home - do their children go to school. Encourage and support the children of your employees to complete their education, including for girls / differently-abled.

Did You Know These Facts About SDG 4 – Quality Education?

  • 200 Million

    Before the coronavirus crisis, projections showed that more than 200 million children would be out of school, and only 60 percent of young people would be completing upper secondary education in 2030.

  • 2010-2018

    Before the coronavirus crisis, the proportion of children and youth out of primary and secondary school had declined from 26 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2010 and 17 percent in 2018.

  • 85%

    More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 85% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are not learning the minimum.

  • 617 Million

    617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills.

  • 750 Million

    Some 750 million adults – two thirds of them women – remained illiterate in 2016. Half of the global illiterate population lives in South Asia, and a quarter live in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • 10

    In 10 low- and middle-income countries, children with disabilities were 19 percent less likely to achieve minimum proficiency in reading than those without disabilities.

  • 4 Million

    4 million refugee children were out of school in 2017.

Targets For SDG 4 – Quality Education Set By The United Nations

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

    Target 4.1
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

    Target 4.2
  • By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.

    Target 4.3
  • By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

    Target 4.4
  • By 2030, 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.

    Target 4.5
  • By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.

    Target 4.6
  • By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

    Target 4.7
  • Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

    Target 4.A
  • By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries.

    Target 4.B
  • By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states.

    Target 4.C

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