Sustainable Development Goals

Charting progress towards SDG 4: Quality Education

Visualising global and regional trends

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This page provides a selection of visualisations on global and regional trends for Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The visualisations use the latest official data from the United Nations SDG Global Database.

Target 4.1

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes


4.1.1Proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics
4.1.2Completion rate (primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education)

No data on proficiency levels (target 4.1.1) is available from the UN SDG Database on global and regional trends.

The global average completion rate has increased for all educational levels measured by the target (primary, lower and upper secondary). However, the data does not yet capture the effect of the pandemic.

Completion rates vary significantly between regions, with Europe and North America achieving almost full completion across all three educational levels. In contrast, completion rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are 64% in primary school, 45% in lower secondary, and 27% in upper secondary.

Target 4.2

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education


4.2.1Proportion of children aged 24–59 months who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being, by sex
4.2.2Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by sex

For the first indicator (4.2.1) that measuring whether children are developmentally on track, data is only available for 73 countries covering less than 50% of the world population. The indicator is therefore not discussed further.

Participation rates in organised learning before the start of primary school stood at 75% in 2020, up from 65% in 2002, but at approximately the same level as in 2013-2019. The UN expects the pandemic to have had a large negative effect on organised learning, with early education facilities closed for more than a full school year in most countries.

There are substantial differences between countries and regions, around half of children participating in organised learning in Sub-Saharan Africa and Northern Africa and Western Asia. In both Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and Northern America more than 9 out of 10 children participated in such learning.

Target 4.3

By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university


4.3.1Participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex

Data for this indicator is not available at the global or regional level.

Target 4.4

By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship


4.4.1Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill

Data for this indicator is not available at a global or regional level.

Target 4.5

By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations


4.5.1Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected, as data become available) for all education indicators on this list that can be disaggregated

The target is tracked by a broad range of parity indices, expressed as the ratio of the value of the indicator for the likely more disadvantaged group to that of the likely more advantaged group. Such indices are available for many countries, but not at the aggregate world or regional level.

Nonetheless, the main conclusion in the UN SDG 2022 status report, based on the available data, is that there are persistent disparities in educational participation and outcomes:

  • Most countries with data have gender inequalities across several aspects of education, including lower secondary completion rate and minimum proficiency in reading.
  • 5 of 6 countries with data did not have parity between rural and urban areas for the lower secondary completion rates.
  • Almost no countries had parity in the lower secondary completion rate for between children from the poorest and richest households.

Target 4.6

By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy


4.6.1Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex

No data is available at the global or regional level.

Target 4.7

By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development


4.7.1Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education and (d) student assessment

Global trends

There is ongoing work to develop the indicator used to measure progress towards this target. Each of the four components of the indicator (policies, curricula, teacher education, and student assessment), are measured by a range of criteria which taken together are given a score between 0 and 1, where 1 entails full mainstreaming of the Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). As of 2022, no data is currently available at the global or regional level.

Target 4.a

Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all


4.a.1Proportion of schools offering basic services, by type of service

This indicator measured the share of schools offering access to the following basic services:

  • Electricity
  • Internet for pedagogical purposes
  • Computers for pedagogical use
  • Basic drinking water
  • Single-sex basic sanitation facilities
  • Basic handwashing facilities
  • Adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities

The most recent data, from 2020, shows that around three-quarters of primary schools worldwide have access to drinking water, electricity, handwashing and single-sex sanitation. Coverage rates are higher for lower secondary and upper secondary schools. Access to computers, internet and adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities is much lower. At the primary school level, only half of the world schools provide access to these services.

Although data is not available for all educational levels over time, the general trend is that access to basic services has increased since 2015, albeit slowly. For example, coverage rates for access to electricity in primary schools have increased from 65% to 75%, while coverage rates for access to internet at upper secondary schools have increased from 60% to 65%.

Regional data is limited, however, the available data shows that coverage levels in the least developed countries are significantly lower across all services.

Target 4.b

By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries


4.b.1Volume of official development assistance flows for scholarships by sector and type of study

While there is no set target level for 2030 for this indicator, the total volume of official development assistance (ODA) for scholarships increased from 440 million USD in 2006 to over 1,500 million in 2020.

Target 4.c

By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States


4.c.1Proportion of teachers with the minimum required qualifications, by education level

The latest data shows that the share of teachers with the minimum qualifications is between 13 and 21 percentage point lower in least developed countries than the world average. Regional data shows that Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest percentages of trained teachers of all regions (for which data is available).

There is no set target for 2030 for this indicator.

About the data

The data presented on global and regional trends are from the UN SDG Global Database.


  • First release November 2022

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