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SDG Indicators for SDG 4: quality education includes health & poverty

SDG Indicators for SDG 4 quality also includes health & poverty.
Written by
Alan Pierce
Published on
November 30, 2018

Explore the SDG Indicators, key measures tracking progress in education, health, and poverty reduction under SDG 4 Quality.

How can we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? We can only bring them as close to the finish line as possible by leveraging our target strategy. If we strategically align the targets and goals, progress in one area also means positive progress in another.

For example, SDG 4: Quality Education could be one of those leverage points through which many of the other Goals can be positively impacted.

In this blog, we’ll look at why that is the case and in which other areas it could make a significant difference.

But first, let’s briefly examine the UN’s SDG framework for Goal 4.

SDG Targets and SDG Indicators for SDG 4

According to the United Nations, less than half of youth worldwide meet proficiency standards. And while more than 90% of children in developing countries have access to quality education, nearly 60 million are still without schooling.

In addition to general proficiency targets in reading and math, the SDG indicators laid out by the United Nations for Goal #4 tackle issues of space (quality classrooms, rural barriers), issues of expertise (adequate teachers), and issues of gender (equality of opportunity).

This demonstrates the scope and complexity of the problem. Many variables are at stake, and depending on the context, the reason for lack of access to quality education could be quite varied.

The full scope of targets and indicators can be found here, while a few key ones are shown in the image below.

sdg 4 Quality education - indicators and targets
SDG 4 Targets and Indicators Partial Table

Tracking the Progress of SDG 4 Education 

When looking at how we achieve those targets and indicators, the answer varies widely depending on the region. As mentioned, developing countries have made significant progress. But in other areas of the world, like developing countries and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the problem remains substantial.

While global early childhood and primary education rates reached 70 percent in 2016 (a seven percent increase from 2010), sub-Saharan Africa stood at 41 percent. The map below from the SDG Index and Dashboard Reports for 2018 paints the overall global picture.

sdg 4 progress - quality education over the world

Developed countries are far better off. Does this mean they must help developing countries reach a similar status? The UN seems to think so. One of the targets for SDG 4 calls for more scholarship financing to flow into developing nations (it’s not explicit, but this implies sourcing from developed countries).

Incentivizing increased capital flow for such scholarships could be about more than just Goal #4. It should be because there is a clear link between quality education and improved outcomes in other SDG areas.

How Quality Education Can Improve Outcomes for Other SDGs

Let’s look at three other SDGs and explore the correlation between their desired outcomes and what access to a better education can do to help achieve them.

First up, SDG 1: End Poverty. If by 2030, we are to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide, then we need to disrupt the systems that perpetuate its existence. What is one of those systems? Education. A lack of access to education is one of the most precise forms of unjust systems that keep families and communities in cycles of poverty.

For example, a UNESCO study found that “if all adults received two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, it would lift nearly 60 million people out of poverty.” Furthermore, another UN report shares that “one extra year of education is associated with a reduction of the Gini coefficient by 1.4 percentage points.” The Gini coefficient measures inequality rates.

Second up is SDG 2: End Hunger. In addition to targeting improvements in agricultural productivity and sustainable practices, the goal tasks the global community with ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

What’s the relation to education? There are many. The first grim reality is that many children don’t even make it to an age to begin schooling. The under-5 mortality rate in low-income countries is 14 times that of the more affluent counterparts. One of the things that can help change is educating mothers in such countries about nutrition and meal planning.

Third, we have SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being. Reduce preventable deaths and illnesses. Increase access to health care. Reduce and prevent substance abuse, and promote vaccine research. These are some of the focus areas of this critical goal.

SDG1 -Poverty SDG 2- Hunger SDG 3 -Health & well being Education

Virginia Commonwealth University’s research on the link between education and health yielded the graphic. Two key correlations are worth noting. First, the more education you have, the higher your income potential is and, therefore, your ability to access and pay for health services. Second, keeping students healthy is essential to take advantage of educational opportunities.

The path to quality education is a multi-way street. And to get there, we’ll need to track SDG indicators across the goals.

Using Technology to Track the Right Education SDG Indicators

To address the interconnected nature of the SDGs, as we have seen in this blog, organizations of all types must be able to manage and compare unique data sets. They need to be able to extrapolate meaning from indicators that may be defined for one SDG but may also be relevant for another.  


Sopact’s Impact Cloud SDG Tracking is one technological solution that can handle such data sets. Built with over 2,000 metrics, including SDG indicators, if your organization is tackling SDG 4: Quality Education, you will also need to look at how your activities affect SDGs 1, 2, and 3.

In association with the Impact Management Project Network, Sopact integrates today’s impact measurement best practices so that comparing and managing across the SDGs can be done efficiently for actors at each level of the impact spectrum.

If you want to get the most out of your SDG indicators, you will need a powerful tool or tools to do so.

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