United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) for 2030 include “inclusive and equitable quality education” which means access to education and opportunities for its attainment are significant goals to strive towards globally for easing development across the board. The SDGs are major international development targets approved by the UN General Assembly in the year 2015 meant to be achieved by 2030. 

According to a recent assessment, Measuring and Forecasting Progress Towards the Education-related SDG Targets, published in the Nature research journal, it is predicted that most nations will be able to achieve near-universal primary education by 2030, however, there will remain sizable inter-regional disparities secondary-school education’s completion rates. 

The authors aimed to gauge whether countries are on track to achieve the SDGs for education by 2030. Assembling a database of 3,180 national censuses and surveys from 195 nations and territories they have developed a model that can help deduce single-year estimates of educational attainment for all populations, separately by sex and country, from 1970 to 2018. There are seven major regions identified by the researcher Friedman and colleagues to extrapolate the education SDG fulfillment including high-income countries, sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The authors press that almost 90% of children will have completed 6 years’ worth of primary education by 2030, but the exception to this possibility are countries like Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and parts of northern sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to primary education, the progress towards near-universal secondary education attainment will continue to more uneven. It is believed that only 61% of young adults aged 25–29 years will have completed secondary school by 2030, and no major world region is expected to reach near-universal levels of secondary-school attainment even then. Disparities are in fact, expected to rise until 2030 as tertiary schooling expands faster in some regions than others. 

An interesting insight provided by the authors is that the gaps between the educational attainment of male and female students are expected to considerable increase by 2030. In the 1970s, men usually had more years of education than did women in 142 countries. By 2018, the gap had narrowed to 27 countries, and by 2030 it is projected to be just 4. Moreover, “in 18 nations and regions, women are expected to achieve significantly higher mean years of schooling than men”. 

Even though the model uses an impressive amount of data to draw its conclusions, nonetheless, there are limitations it faces due to data scarcity. Countries in the developed world regions such as France and Germany contribute the most amount of data for analysis whereas, in smaller, resource-constrained countries the data is not readily available and often has not been collected in recent years at all. The authors take into account regional trends for analysis of countries or territories for which data are scarce, but the results then need to be interpreted with caution.

Complete estimation of education SDGs attainment can only be done if factors like socio-economic gaps in schooling are taken into account, but again there is not enough data available to do a full round-up. Lack of data available continues to pose a risk to progress tracking of inclusive and equitable education, globally.

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