Measuring and forecasting progress towards the education-related SDG targets

Published April 15, 2020, in Nature (opens in a new window)


Education is a key dimension of well-being and a crucial indicator of development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritize progress in education, with a new focus on inequality. Here we model the within-country distribution of years of schooling, and use this model to explore educational inequality since 1970 and to forecast progress towards the education-related 2030 SDG targets. We show that although the world is largely on track to achieve near-universal primary education by 2030, substantial challenges remain in the completion rates for secondary and tertiary education. Globally, the gender gap in schooling had nearly closed by 2018 but gender disparities remained acute in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and North Africa and the Middle East. It is predicted that, by 2030, females will have achieved significantly higher educational attainment than males in 18 countries. Inequality in education reached a peak globally in 2017 and is projected to decrease steadily up to 2030. The distributions and inequality metrics presented here represent a framework that can be used to track the progress of each country towards the SDG targets and the level of inequality over time. Reducing educational inequality is one way to promote a fairer distribution of human capital and the development of more equitable human societies.

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Friedman J, York H, Graetz N, Woyczynski L, Whisnant J, Hay SI, Gakidou E. Measuring and forecasting progress towards the education-related SDG targets. Nature. 15 April 2020. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2198-8.