The United Nation’s fourth sustainable development goal of ensuring quality education had a big moment at last year’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Ministers from Kenya, Jordan, and Niger met with leaders from Canada, France, and the United Kingdom and discussed ways to improve girls’ access to education. Several new educational partnerships rose out of 2018’s UNGA meeting, including one designed to provide all young people aged 10-24 with some form of schooling, learning, training, or employment by 2030. And Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands pledged increased educational funding for children living in crisis areas.

Though education gained a lot of attention at last year’s meeting of the UNGA, in 2019, there is still much work to be done to ensure global access to quality education. This is what drives the work of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), a global organization that brings together decision makers, teachers, and education experts from around the world to discuss education policy considering global issues. Ahead of this fall’s UNGA meeting, WISE has published three reports detailing innovative advancements in education policy. Global leaders would be wise to heed the organization’s recommendations when discussing ways to achieve goal four.

A Need for Educational Leadership

Globally, the share of primary school teachers who are trained for their positions amounts to 85%, and the proportion drops to 64% in sub-Saharan Africa. According to WISE, educational leadership is just one way that schools can improve teaching efforts and school organization. After all, educational leadership is the key component behind many of the most effective schools, and educational leadership must be rooted in teaching if is to be effective. One way schools can lead effective teaching, as the recent WISE report notes, is by designing educational curriculum that utilizes the cultural knowledge of its students. For example, some teachers might be more effective if they realize the students struggling with formal math had already developed rudimentary math skills helping their parents count goods at market.

Linking Education and Wellbeing

Recent data from 72 countries indicate that only 70% of children aged 3-4 are on track in at least three of the following areas: literacy-numeracy, physical development, social-emotional development, and learning. Such data indicate a growing need for states to initiate educational policy that promotes both educational and health needs. States hoping to implement similar policies can take a cue from Jordan’s Ministry of Education, which has developed a comprehensive plan to improve the quality of education for all youth in the country, which features a large Syrian refugee population. Notably, the program includes several measures to promote student wellbeing, including subsidized school meals for lower income families, anti-bullying measures, and extracurricular activities.

Creative Routes to Secondary Education

Ensuring quality access to education means ensuring access to education that goes beyond primary school. From 2000 to 2015, the number of lower secondary school age children left out of the classroom shrank from 97 million to 62 million. However, challenges to achieving secondary school education are greatest in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Senegal is just one country in sub-Saharan African that is pursuing unique solutions to building a better education system. The African nation has already made athletics an integral part of its education, hoping that an emphasis on sports and physical education will contribute positively to its social and economic development. But the country also hosts several private football academies which provide educational opportunities to gifted young athletes in a country where only 37.1% of secondary-school aged children attend school.

Education is sure to receive some of the spotlight at this year’s UNGA. As member states work to better ensure quality access to education the world over, they can look towards many of their peers for policy inspiration. From designing curriculum based on cultural knowledge to promoting student well-being, several states are ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting effective education policy. It remains to be seen whether such innovative policy helps states work toward providing access to quality education in the future.

Allyson Berri
Allyson Berri is a Diplomatic Courier Correspondent whose writing focuses on global affairs and economics.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.