Occasional Papers

Education and the SDGs

Education plays a foundational role in the newly-launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With a particular focus on improving life opportunities and outcomes for the most marginalized in society, the SDGs were formed to build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In addition to serving as the focus for SDG4 (“ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”), education directly contributes to the goals addressing poverty reduction and reduced inequalities, health and nutrition, economic growth and labor market opportunities, as well as peacebuilding and the promotion of democratic institutions.

This document presents a summary of the literature on the impact that education (SDG 4) has on each of the other SDGs. It draws on a number of publications that perform a similar exercise, although it expands upon the scope of research and evidence that is presented (see Table 1). Publications were identified through internet searches, as well as searches of specific organizational websites. Of the publications listed, UNESCO (2014) Sustainable development begins with education, UN DESA (2015) How well are the links between education…, and UNICEF (2015) The investment case for education and equity were most useful for the task. These publications compiled a wealth of information on the relationship between education and the SDGs. Additional publications were used to fill in gaps where possible, and to add more recent research findings. In this way, the present document should not be seen as a systematic review of evidence; instead, it comprehensively summarizes what some recent high profile organizational publications have compiled on the topic. In particular, the UN DESA publication summarizes 37 UN agency flagship reports as well as the World Bank, so this document can in turn be considered a review of those publications.

Publication Date: 
November 20, 2016