Blog: Amplify

17 Days, 17 Goals: Goal 4 - Education

Goal 4: Quality Education

- Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning -

Sustainable Development Goal 4 Quality Education

This post is part of our blog series: 17 Days, 17 Goals. The blog series features foundations working on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals leading up to the first anniversary of the SDGs. The Council on Foundations Sustainable Development Goals & Philanthropy initiative is in partnership with the United Nations Foundation and SDG Philanthropy Platform. Find us on social media with #PhilSDGs.

Why do we need Goal 4?

  • 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills - more than 60% are women
  • 66% of US 4th graders scored "below proficient" on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress reading test, below grade level
  • About 20% of American students do not finish high school, a number that rises to approximately 30% for Black and Hispanic students
  • In the 50 largest cities in the US, the high school graduation rate was only 53%
  • 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level
  • US ranked 12th in literacy among 20 developed countries studied

What are some of the targets?

  • Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, including university
  • Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
  • Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education

Featured: The Kresge Foundation

"Think about every problem, every challenge we face. The solution to each starts with education. "

- George H. W. Bush, former President of the United States

Education is a key focus of the Kresge Foundation. Programs in both the United States and South Africa focus on expanding postsecondary access and educational success in cities, for first-generation and under-represented students. In America today, students from low-income backgrounds gradate at lower rates than those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Similar to the ways education is spread across the SDGs, beyond just the targets of Goal 4, the Kresge Foundation sees education as intrinsically linked to the economic well-being of cities, given that by 2020, 60% of all jobs will require post-secondary education. 

Through their education program in the United States, Kresge funds partners like Achieving the Dream, a national reform network focused on increasing the academic success of 4 million community college students in 35 states. The network links directly to more than 200 colleges and has 15 state policy teams looking at systemic challenges to educational reform around the country. 

The Kresge Foundation has also been working in South Africa for over 25 years, the only place outside of the US where it does so. The challenges faced there - access for underrepresented students, for example - are similar to those present in the United States and provide an opportunity for the foundation to apply lessons learned in one country to their work in the other. 

Goal 4 has a global target of ensuring all men and women have equal access to postsecondary educations, and Kresge is just one of many funders working to achieve this target by 2030 in the United States and around the world. 

The Kresge Foundation 


Resources & Information

  1. United Nations
  2. Students First
  3. The Washington Post
  4. Literacy Project Foundation
  5. United States Government Publishing Office

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