Combatting the Pandemic Impact: U.N. SDG 4 – Quality Education Is Key to Sustainable Development*

Written by Dr. Khurram Jamil, President – Strategic Initiatives

In a world in need of sustainable development, education remains key. In fact, Quality Education is the fourth of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—recognized as a catalyst toward “socioeconomic mobility and … escaping poverty.” The pandemic, however, has threatened that progress, with 91 percent of students worldwide impacted at some point by temporary school closures and learning disruptions. As the U.N. observed, “The global pandemic has far-reaching consequences that may jeopardize hard won gains made in improving global education.”

The pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on some of the world’s most vulnerable people, with dire consequences that could last for another decade or longer. A new study from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) found that the pandemic could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, bringing the total to more than 1 billion.

Fortunately, it is possible to alter these projections through the diligent pursuit of the SDGs to change the trajectory for those at risk of falling into extreme poverty. As we examine the objectives of the goals—eliminating poverty, ending hunger, improving health, pursuing gender equality, enabling decent work and economic growth, and more—we can see that learning is the cornerstone.

Around the world, organizations (both for-profit and nonprofit) must partner with governments and other entities to ensure that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling. Moreover, the pursuit of SDG 4 – Quality Education speaks directly to the need to employ the latest in learning research and advanced learning technologies. Through scalable solutions, education can become equitable, accessible, and more effective.

Unlocking Opportunity — Leaving No One Behind

When people are equipped with the right knowledge and skills, they can find economic opportunities for themselves and pursue solutions with greater equality and benefits for all within communities, countries, and across the planet. We at Area9 continue to seek ways to improve the delivery of education from K-12 initiatives to corporate learning and development (L&D) and our work in the public sector. Although we are a for-profit company, we see it as part of our mission to make the latest in learning science and technologies available to underserved populations—leaving no one behind.

            Digital Awareness

As more people work and learn at home due to the pandemic, there is a greater need for healthy digital awareness. Area9 is working closely with Digital Awareness UK to provide K-12 courses and programs on digital awareness, online bullying, social media behaviors, and online security to support a healthier digital presence. Digital Awareness UK also promotes an “awareness agenda” as a corporate program for employees and their families, with solutions that can be integrated into existing learning platforms.

Education and Character-Building

On every continent, in both developing and developed countries, in urban areas and rural locations, education must do more than merely deliver knowledge. A significant component is character-building, which should go hand-in-hand with learning to increase knowledge and skills. A foremost model is Four-Dimensional Education, as developed by the Center for Curriculum Redesign, which defines the four dimensions as:

  • Knowledge – what we know and understand
  • Skills – how we use what we know
  • Character – how we behave and engage in the world
  • Meta-Learning – how we reflect and adapt

Bringing all four aspects together, we can see that learning does not have to be robotic and mechanical; instead, the whole person can be developed. This is especially important with character to develop such key traits as mindfulness, curiosity, courage, and resilience, as well as ethics and leadership.

Through character-building, including empathy and kindness, learners may also become more interested in the world around them. They recognize the importance of not only their own development, but also opportunities for all learners. In this way, the pursuit of SDG 4 – Quality Education can become part of a virtuous circle on a global scale.

BIO: Khurram Jamil, M.D., is President of Strategic Initiatives at Area9

(*) Executive Summary of an aticle published in

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