A quality education for every single child. Gender equality in the classroom. Higher-ed options that don't break the bank.  

If these all sound like the trappings of a fantasy land, it's because most countries still struggle to provide them in some way, shape, or form—even the rich ones.

(That means you, America—those college costs are out of control!) 

Come on, people, it's the 21st century. We've basically taught cars to drive themselves. There's got to be a way to give every man, woman, and child the tools they need to lead fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

That's where Global Goal 4 comes in. 

What is Global Goal 4? 

Short answer: Quality education for all. 

Long answer: To "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all." That's how the UN worded it in its overview of the Goals.

Breaking it down a bit further, this goal is really addressing two distinct but inseparable trouble spots affecting education around the world today. 

1) Access: Right now, something like 60 million children aren't in school for all kinds of reasons. Add to that the 781 million illiterate adults and all the college-age kids who can't afford to continue their studies (not to mention all the girls and women denied the same opportunities as their male peers) and it's clear that achieving Goal 4 starts with improving access to education in all its forms. 

2) Quality: Getting students in school is only half the battle—what they learn there matters, too. That's why quality is so clearly emphasized in the wording of Goal 4. Quality means implementing effective curricula and measuring outcomes. It also means providing students with facilities and resources, like the Internet, to help them keep pace with the modern world. 

In a nutshell, all the sub-goals and targets nested within Goal 4 fall into those two categories. All of which sounds great in theory. But as always, the million-dollar question is...

Can Goal 4 be achieved? 

Ensuring a quality education for everyone, everywhere—should be easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3, right?


Not so fast, Jackson Five. Achieving this goal is going to take some doing.

The good news is, the world has already made tangible progress on the education front. Consider these promising stats: From 2007 to 2012, the number of out-of-school children dropped by 2 million kids. That's a lot of promising futures secured in just five years' time! And between 2000 and 2012, the global primary school completion rate jumped ten percentage points, to 92%. That's not everyone, but it's progress. 

On the flip side, far too many kids are still being left behind. And since poverty and academic achievement go hand in hand, every time the world denies a child an education, poverty tightens its grip like this car-crushing octopus. 


What's being done to close the education gap even further? Read on.

What tactics will be used to accomplish Goal 4?

Like all of the Global Goals, Global Goal 4 is broken down into several sub-goals which provide a roadmap for how the overarching goal will be achieved. Without further ado, here's a bare-bones breakdown of Goal 4's component sub-goals to help give you a sense of how world leaders intend to tackle this ambitious goal: 

1. Universal primary and secondary education for ALL kids. Those K-through-12 years lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning. 

2. Universal access to early childhood development and pre-primary education. Setting kids up for success right from the start.

3. Quality—and affordable—technical, vocational and tertiary education (like college).  Higher ed shouldn't be luxury good. 

4. Better, more relevant job training opportunities for all. A modern world needs a modern workforce. 

5. Equal access to education. That includes women, the disabled, indiginous groups, and other historically marginalized groups. 

6. Literacy for ALL kids and most (if not all) adults. Is there a more essential skill out there? Breathing, maybe. 

7. More emphasis on knowledge and training related to sustainable development. Global Citizenship 101, if you will. 

Diving down even deeper into the specifics, there's also language promoting better school facilities, more teachers, and new scholarships enabling students in developing countries to study at the world's best universities, and 

Who's leading the way on Goal 4?

Success in education can be measured any number of ways, and most national education systems have their own shortcomings, so in that sense there's no definitive leader when it comes to eduction at the national level. 

At the individual level, though, I'd be remiss if I didn't include Malala on this list of education all-stars. The world's youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize is galvanizing global support for this critical issue, particularly when it comes to girls. Her recent #BooksNotBullets campaign to encourage world leaders to spend more on education and less on war is an especially inspiring example of how one person can lead the charge. Speaking of which...

What can YOU do? 

Short of hopping on a plane and volunteering your time as a tutor in an underserved community somewhere in India (which sounds like a pretty admirable thing to do, honestly), one of the most impactful things you can do to support Goal 4 is to use your voice to amplify the cause. In the leadup to this year's Global Citizen Festival, global citizens everywhere joined none other than Stephen Colbert in calling on the Prime Minister of Norway to increase her country's support of education worldwide. And it worked!  An individual tweet or phone call might not seem like a lot—but a couple hundred thousand actions can really get stuff done. (Plus, Stephen's video message to Prime Minister Solberg was pretty hilarious.) 

And don't forget: No matter where you live, there are almost certainly opportunities to improve education in your own backyard. As I mentioned, even the richest countries are regularly failing children when it comes to education. Until system-level change brinsg better education for all, taking time to mentor the struggling students in your life could go a long way. 

Show your support for Global Goal 4! It only takes a minute and a couple of clicks. Click TAKE ACTION NOW to email the Prime Minister of Belgium and encourage him to increase his country's commitment to the Global Partnership for Education. 


Defeat Poverty

Global Goal 4: Quality Education

By Hans Glick