September 25th 2017, marked two years since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted. This momentous anniversary is an occasion for us all to make sure the SDGs remain high on the global agenda. It's also a chance to join the UN SDG campaign in their Global Day of Action, which appeals to civil society, volunteers and citizens (#Act4SDGs).
One of the key elements of this campaign is to check our progress towards the SDG goals. So, how far are we from achieving SDG 4?
In last year's Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) we warned that, if current trends continue, we're not likely to see universal primary education by 2030 in many countries, let alone universal lower or upper secondary education. Lower middle income countries aren't expected to hit this target until 2054, and low income countries are a staggering 58 years behind schedule: in those countries, universal primary education isn't expected until 2088. Some countries won't see universal primary completion until the end of the century.
Of course, universal enrolment at lower and upper secondary is a key part of the SDG4 target as well. Under the scenario that past growth rates will continue, universal lower secondary completion would be achieved in 2059, and universal upper secondary completion only in 2084.
The message is clear: we must act, and we must act now. #Act4SDGs !
A first course of action would be to target our actions towards those most in need. As our WIDE database shows us, these out-of-school children are most frequently the most disadvantaged - poor girls in sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia, poor boys in Latin America and the Caribbean and in East Asia, the poorest, ethnic minority groups, and those in rural areas. In the 2016 Gender Review, we noted that there were only 10 of 90 low and middle income countries where 20- to 24-year-olds attained, on average, at least 12 years of education. In many countries in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, including Afghanistan, Benin, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Pakistan and South Sudan, the poorest young women attained less than a year of schooling, compared to about two years or more for the poorest young men.
It's not enough to say that this is a problem for governments to solve; we all have a role to play in improving these outcomes. The 2017/8 GEM Report, which will be released in a month's time, explores the topic of accountability in education and concludes that every single one of us, from students to parents, from civil society members to teachers, has a role to play in ensuring equitable quality education for all. The responsibility of international organizations is also very high.
So why is the GEM Report joining a campaign that's about all of the SDGs, not just SDG4? Put simply, it's because achieving one goal can help achieve many others. One of the ambitions of the SDGs is to break down the "silo" mentality when it comes to different dimensions of sustainable development, and to reinforce the fact that all of the SDGs are interconnected; progress in meeting one SDG has beneficial flow-on effects for progress in meeting more SDGs. The 2016 GEM Report found that, if we could achieve universal secondary schooling by 2030, we could see a reduction in deaths of children under-5 from 68 per 1,000 live births to 54 in the same period and to 44 by 2050. Education also has a significant effect on economic development and poverty reduction: educating all adults to secondary level would cut global poverty by more than half. We stand by the statement that any step that we take in moving towards any one of our SDGs is a step we take in moving towards all of them.
Raise your voice and make sure everyone knows how important the SDGs are to improve the state of our planet. You can tweet using the #Act4SDGs hashtag, register for the Global Day of Action, and join the Thunderclap campaign to raise awareness on social media. You can also use the resources on the SDG Action Campaign website to plan an event or lead a campaign in your local community. There are also numerous campaigns and fundraisers happening in communities around the world: the Do It In A Dress campaign encourages people to raise money by undertaking an activity wearing a school dress and aims to help provide education to some of the 60 million girls around the world who aren't in school.
The GEM Report team is proud to add our voice to the Global Day of Action, and to remind leaders that the SDGs are a critical global priority.
Join the #Act4SDGs campaign and share the infographics here