Global Goals Week 2021: SDG 4

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 or “Quality Education” promotes advanced learning opportunities and ensures inclusive and fair education for everybody. Right now, there is still an urgent need for education to be improved globally, especially now that technological advancements are prominent in today’s modern world. We hold the key to opening the doors of quality education for all.

Literacy Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region
Proof of significant development in adult literacy rates between 1990 and 2016 was seen in the Asia-Pacific Region. According to UNESCO Bangkok, adult literacy rates increased from 46% to 72% in South Asia; from 64% to 81% in West Asia; and from 82% to 96% in East and South-East Asia within the set period. Youth literacy rates also rose from above 80% to close to 100% in East and South-East Asia; from 80% to 90% in West Asia; and from 59% to 89% in South Asia, the sub-region with the most significant improvement. 

Given the data, remarkable progress is indeed evident. However, it is still true that this region still has a large number of the world’s illiterate adults, over 68%. South Asia alone is home to almost half of the global illiterate population (49%), while 10% live in East and South-East Asia, and 9% in West Asia. Adult women are still up to six times less likely than men to have basic reading and writing skills in West Asia and South Asia.

As of now, we are not on track to achieve the goals of SDG 4 by 2030.

Impacts of Covid-19 pandemic 
Schools around the world have closed due to the rising cases of COVID-19. Globally, over 1.2 billion children in 186 countries are out of school, even though countries have different infection rates. The landscape of world education changed drastically with the shift to online learning, and teaching is done through digital platforms. Studies have shown that online learning increases retention of information and takes less time. Despite the progress in COVID-19 responses, the changes brought by the coronavirus might stay for a while. However in some countries like Denmark, children up to the age of 11 are returning to schools, but in other countries like the Philippines, students are still connecting with their teachers online.

The Challenges of Online Learning
Many challenges are currently being faced by students learning online. Some who have no stable internet connection or efficient gadgets struggle to participate in online classes. This gap is evident among countries and the social class barriers within those states. For example, whilst 95% of students in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their assignments, only 34% in Indonesia do, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In the US, a significant gap between privileged and disadvantaged students is present. According to studies, most 15-year-olds from a privileged background have gadgets like a computer for schoolwork, while nearly 25% of those from disadvantaged backgrounds do not. Although some schools and government units provide technological assistance to students in need such as those in New South Wales and Australia, it is still possible that the pandemic will worsen the digital divide.

Is learning online as effective?
For those with access to the right technology, online classes are more effective in learning. Research shows that on an average, students retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. Since e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting, students can learn faster and do work at their own pace.

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