Focus on SDG Goal 4: Quality Education and Lifelong Learning

The Sustainable Development Goals set out, among other objectives, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This goal reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. Since 2000, there has been enormous progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. However, while Sub-Saharan Africa has made the greatest progress in primary school enrolment among all developing regions (from 52 percent in 1990, up to 78 percent in 2012), large disparities still remain. Children from the poorest households are four times more likely to be out of school than those of the richest households. Disparities between rural and urban areas also remain high.

A further hurdle to realising this goal is the current structure and content of curricula across the Sub-Saharan region. The 4th SDG goal highlights the importance of lifelong learning. This means teaching and learning must be responsive to an ever evolving local and global context. As societies around the world struggle to keep pace with the progress of technology and globalisation, they encounter many new challenges. These include increasing complexity and uncertainty; more individualisation and social diversity; expanding economic and cultural uniformity; degradation of ecosystems; and greater vulnerability and exposure to natural and technological hazards.

In order to understand and thrive in this complex world, we need to develop certain competencies. These include cognitive, affective, volitional and motivational elements (an interplay of knowledge, capacities and skills, motives and affective dispositions). If we hope to prepare South Africa’s youth for this reality, our curriculum needs to support the practical  development of these competencies through experiential learning.

The need to develop our curriculum was a key theme at BRIDGE’s last South African Extraordinary Coalition (SAESC) meeting on the 4th of March 2019. Founding CoP member, John Gilmour, lead a session in which he asked participants to consider the issues facing this generation in light of the SDGs, and how these young people might be better supported to develop innovative solutions. Educationists across the world have put the SDGs at the centre of their curricula, and South Africa must do the same. Educators, who stand at the coalface of teaching and learning, can be key agents in reviewing and further developing national curricula to promote the delivery of the SDGs. Members of the Coalition have already begun this work by creating lesson plans that include the SDGs.

Wilhelmina Motileng – the newly appointed school leader at LEAP 6 Ga-Rankuwa – offered another example of how the Coalition is incorporating the SDGs into the curriculum. Wilhelmina shared on an effort at her school aimed at tackling maths and science learner outcomes. The school started to work with an organisation called Clean Energy, and as part of this work, learners build materials using Lego and are involved in solar energy projects and other science related activities. This has peaked a lot of learner’s interest in maths and science and led to the creation of a learner-run Science Club at the school. The Club’s latest impressive project was the construction of a solar car.

The meeting also included a discussion of MakerSpace, a project-based space geared towards developing learners’ 21st century skills. MakerSpace provides hands-on, creative ways to encourage learners to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and tinkering. MakerSpace accommodates a wide range of activities, tools and materials (from science, to wood-making to art). Diversity and cross-pollination of activities, and making and exploration processes are critical to its design.

LEAP’s Lawrence Manyesa discussed the use of this initiative at LEAP 3. Learners at the school created a makeshift science laboratory where they are encouraged to consider the problems in their communities and share ideas on how to tackle these issues. The school has also partnered with Team4Tech on a robotics programme which provides learners with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


These examples affirm the CoPs important role as a knowledge producer in thinking about education for sustainable development.

To read the latest SAESC Meeting Highlights, click here.

To learn more about introducing the SDGs into your classroom, click here.