“A quality education is one that focuses on the whole child- the social, emotional, mental, physical, and cognitive development of each student regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or geographic location. It prepares the child for life, not just for testing.”-Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and Education International (EI)
The 4th goal set by the United Nations for sustainable development is ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for everyone all around the world. They briefly named the goal “Quality Education”. When first introduced, the goal was greeted with surprise and admiration because it was a unique goal, focused purely on education. Another reason the goal was greeted with surprise was that it did not merely promote access to education, but instead, it called for a quality education not just for those from high-income families, but also the ones with limited access to educational materials.
Education is the most critical tool for the betterment of humanity, as well as the development of modernization in the communities. Prior to setting the goal, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made sure everyone completely understood and internalized what quality education actually is.
“Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, and tolerant societies.”-Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
UN did not support the education met by focusing only on literacy and numeracy. They didn’t believe a test score or how many words a primary school child can read per minute can define the potential and desires of that student. Instead, the UN wanted education to help students be prepared to be productive citizens, ready to lead the future. Education should not simply be a content-delivery system. It should focus on improving the skills of students in reaching their full potential and entering society as productive citizens. It should ensure that each child learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe, practices a healthy lifestyle, engages in learning actively, has the opportunities to communicate with the school and broader community, and is challenged academically for further college success. For such purposes, the main steps should be to ensure access to quality teachers and learning tools while maintaining a safe and supportive environment in the school.
As we have done in some of our previous articles, I would like to share the targets set by the United Nations to reach by 2030 under the concept of Quality Education:
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
- 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.
- By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.
- 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.
- 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 people, and children in vulnerable situations.
- By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men, and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.
- 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.
- By 2030, build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability, and gender-sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive, and effective learning environments for all.
- By 2030, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular, least developed countries, small island developing States, and African countries, for enrollment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering, and scientific programs, in developed countries and other developing countries.
- 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.
As if today, about 124 million children across the world are away from school and 250 million children are not learning basic skills as a result of poor quality education. Girls, children with disabilities, those from minority groups, and those living in poor areas are most often denied access to quality education. One of four girls is not in school in most developing countries. 57 million primary-aged children remain out of school, and, sadly, half of these children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas. Only 49% of all children around the world attend secondary school. 42% of African school children will drop out of school before completing their education. 6 out of 10 children and adolescents are not achieving even a minimum level of proficiency in reading and maths. In total, 103 million youth lack basic literacy skills and more than 60% of them are women. Although the graphs on the sides show a significant amount of change towards positive over years until now, these data mentioned above suggest that we still have the longest way to go if we want to achieve inclusive and quality education for all.
We all can make a difference by contributing to our own or others’ education. For example, promoting and taking free online courses is a great opportunity that the digital world provides us with. These courses make further education possible even without going to a university. Or, we can mentor young people by providing tutoring or homework assistance, teaching a language, and delivering a lesson in any area of their interests. We donate our used book to give access to knowledge to someone.
Quality education is a human right and public good and it must serve each child pedagogically and developmentally. It should promote the students to focus on their personal interests, develop their attributes and skills. It must develop their talents and make them realize their creative potentiality. It shouldn’t make be structured in regards to their race, gender, ethnicity, location, or economic status. If we want justice and equity in today’s world, we should first start with educating every person from early childhood to adulthood. Quality education is what every student deserves and we all have the chance to take even the littlest steps toward this goal.
Slade, Sean. “What Do We Mean by a Quality Education?” HuffPost, HuffPost, 22 Feb. 2017, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-do-we-mean-by-a-qual_b_9284130.
Independent, The. “Why We Need Quality Education.” Theindependentbd.com, 2019, m.theindependentbd.com/printversion/details/213436.
“SDG 4 – Quality Education.” SDG 4 – Quality Education – Statistics Explained, 2020, ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=SDG_4_-_Quality_education.
“Goal 4: Quality Education.” UNDP, http://www.tr.undp.org/content/turkey/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-4-quality-education.html.
“Goal 4: Quality Education.” The Global Goals, http://www.globalgoals.org/4-quality-education.