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2030 SDG target unrealistic, says UNESCO


Children in a classroom.

• Seeks improved funding from countries
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has warned that the 2030 target for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 may be unrealisable unless countries improve on their funding of the sector.

A Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) recently released by the organisation lamented that despite the $39 billion annual finance gap hindering the attainment of the global education goal, aid to education by countries across the world has stagnated since 2010.

Director, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Silvia Montoya recalled that the 2015 GEM report identified a gap in the funding of the sector but lamented the lack of commitment from countries to address the problem.

The Global Education Monitoring Report calculated in 2015 that there was a $39 billion annual finance gap and yet aid to education has stagnated since 2010.


“The onus should not all be on donors to fix the problem, countries need to face up to their commitments too. Currently less than half of countries are providing the data we need to monitor progress towards the global education goal. What’s the point in setting targets if we can’t track them? Better finance and coordination are needed to fix this data gap before we get any closer to the deadline, “ Montoya lamented.

Already, the report noted that the world is off track in its education commitments for 2030 and tasked the various countries to match their education plans with their global commitments to get back on track.

“The new UNESCO projections prepared for the UN high level political forum show that the world will fail its education commitments without a rapid acceleration of progress. In 2030, when all children should be in school, one in six aged six to 17 will still be excluded. Many children are still dropping out: by 2030, it is expected 40 per cent will still not be completing secondary education rising to 50 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.

While the SDG 4 enjoins countries to ensure that children are not only going to school but also learning, the proportion of trained teachers in Africa has been falling since 2000.

“At current trends, by 2030, learning rates are expected to stagnate in middle-income countries and Latin America, and drop by almost a third in Francophone African countries. Without rapid acceleration, globally, 20 per cent of young people and 30 per cent of adults will still be unable to read by the deadline.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development emphasises leaving no one behind yet only four of the poorest 20 per cent complete upper secondary school in the poorest countries, compared to 36 per centt of the richest. The gap is even wider in lower middle income countries.

The report analyses policies that countries have put in place to implement the education goal since 2015 and recommended that they align their plans with SDG 4 so that they can get back on track.

Director of GEM, Manos Antoninis said, “Countries have interpreted the meaning of the targets in the global education goal very differently. This seems correct given that countries set off from such different starting points. But they must not deviate too much from the promises they made back in 2015. If they match their plans with their commitments, they can get back on track by 2030.”

“The report shows that many countries have prioritised equity and inclusion since 2015 to meet the goal, with school vouchers issued to indigenous students in Bolivia, tuition fees abolished for the poorest in Vietnam and conditional cash transfers given to refugee children in Turkey, and to children with severe intellectual disabilities in South Africa. Learning has been prioritised too, with a third of countries introducing learning assessments to look at trends over time, and one in four countries using learning results to reform their curricula.

He noted that the weakest synergies between countries’ plans and their education commitments are seen in the lack of cross sectoral collaboration found only in links between education and the labour market.


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Silvia MontoyaUNESCO
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