Education as a Stepping Stone to Sustainability
For the past week, the United Nations has been hosting the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, where certain Sustainable Development Goals are being reviewed in depth to compare progress, share innovation, and learn from successes and failures from working to achieve them. While SDG 4, focusing on the promotion of equal access to quality education, is not specifically being examined this year, it is important to understand that education plays a critical role in the success of all other SDGs. As stated at a UNICEF event last week, “the first lesson of SDGs is that they are all interconnected.”
Education & Poverty
The first of the Sustainable Development Goals is the eradication of poverty. According to the United Nations , secondary education can serve as a route to escape poverty for millions of people. As the globalizing world becomes more reliant on the use of technological innovation, we must make sure that no one is left behind due to lack of educational opportunities, and is given the chance to pursue employment, investment, and other financial resources.
Education & Finances
Just as important as access to primary and secondary education is financial literacy, which is also a major indicator of gender inequality on an international scale. As discussed in a United Nations side event on, “Empowering Women through Financial Inclusion,” women are disproportionately excluded from financial systems, and are less likely to have a savings account, use digital payment systems, and be knowledgeable about financial planning and entrepreneurship. Financial education allows individuals to participate in the economy, and ultimately contribute to growth and development.
Education & Health
Education on sexual and reproductive health is also lacking, especially in lower class areas. Emphasizing the importance of sexual and reproductive education reduces unintended pregnancies and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, and promotes family planning, maternal healthcare, improved parenting, and opportunities for education and employment.
Education & Inequality
Just last week, the world celebrated Malala Day, or the birthday of one our youngest human rights advocates. Malala Yousafzai has been advocating for girls’ rights since she was as young as 11, where she used the internet, and her voice, to speak out against the Taliban’s threats to take away her right to an education. Since then, she has received several honors, and as UN Messenger of Peace, she has also been traveling on her #GirlPowerTrip in order to raise awareness and funding to ensure girls everywhere are receiving an education.
Education & the Environment
To combat climate change, ocean dumping, air pollution, and every activity that harms our environment and ultimately worsens the effects of climate change, the world community must be educated on the issue, and work together to find sustainable solutions.
Many ocean based communities rely on marine resources. The LMMA Network is an example of an organization that is working to conduct research and teach local communities about sustainable fishing practices, smart marine conservation, and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Education & SDGs
Last week, UNICEF hosted a side event on bringing awareness and action on the SDGs to classrooms. During this event, we saw how implementing SDG education into classrooms can promote equality. Educating youth on global issues, how their lives are affected, and what they can do to make an impact is key to ensuring a next generation of people who are involved and dedicated to achieving the global goals.
Not Done Yet
There has been significant progress in increasing standards for education around the world. Enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%, but 57 million children are still left behind. So here’s what you can do:
-Urge your leaders to make education a priority in your region, and around the world
-Raise awareness by sharing what you know about SDG4
-Participate by volunteering your time, financial support, or knowledge to inspire innovation in accomplishing SDG 4