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2023 marked the halfway point of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The UN’s Special Edition Sustainable Development Goals Report sounded an alarm. About 50% of the around 140 targets are ‘moderately or severely off track’ and a shocking 30% have seen no movement or have even regressed. Developing countries and those experiencing emergencies are suffering the most from this failure. The goal of achieving global inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all is in crisis. The report found that to deliver on SDG 4, ‘education financing must become a national investment priority’ and that increasing the number of teachers and improving school infrastructure will be essential.   

An understanding of the need to tackle the diverse challenges in global education also underpins the topics of most interest in 2023: 

Among the high runners for topics of most interest in global education were  

  1. Climate change,  
  2. Technology and  
  3. Equity and inclusion. 

– A critical look at technology and education –

The 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) published by UNESCO looked at the impact of technology on education. We learned that there is little robust, impartial evidence on the impact of education technology with technology products changing every 36 months and evidence being produced by those who sell it. While opening up opportunities for learners with disabilities, hard-to-reach populations and during COVID-19, it all comes down to equitable access to digital learning. The right to education now depends increasingly more on a right to meaningful connectivity. Whether technology has a positive effect on global education very much depends on how quality control and diversity is monitored and guaranteed. The GEM also draws our attention to considering the impact on our planet as we are facing high CO2 emissions from technology.  

– Education a critical pillar of climate action –  

2023 has seen a rising interest in climate change and global education, urgently needed. The Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP28) saw a groundbreaking Declaration on the Common Agenda for Education and Climate Change – the first global political acknowledgement of the critical link between education and climate action. Meanwhile, with climate change related emergencies significantly affecting children’s education worldwide, as documented by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), action is dearly needed. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has launched a new framework for climate-smart education systems to achieve 3 goals: “protect and advance quality, relevant and equitable education; protect the planet’s life systems; and promote climate justice”. Learn more about the new GPE framework here 

– Equal access and eliminating discrimination key –  

Ensuring an inclusive and equitable education are pronounced objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals aiming at reducing disparities and inequalities in both access and quality of education. GCE highlighted challenges and opportunities that digital education must address to achieve gender equality in education. GPE recently called attention to children with intellectual disabilities being left behind and looked at the role that teachers play in creating inclusive learning environments. The Global Refugee Forum published a number of pledges to ensure education for refugees, displaced and crisis-affected children and youth.  

Together, we look towards 2024 to raise urgent awareness that progressing SDG 4 and contributing to education in development and emergency is paramount to advancing and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for achieving an equitable and inclusive quality education for all.