Hand holding a pencil writing on paper
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all


Obtaining a quality education is the foundation for improving people’s lives and pursuing sustainable development. Major progress has been made in Latin America and the Caribbean towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrolment rates in schools, particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides for achieving universal education goals. For example, equality between girls and boys in primary education has been achieved around the world, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.

Key messages of the region on the issues addressed by SDG 4 and its targets

      • It is crucial to strengthen education from early childhood onward, observing the criteria of access and service quality, and taking into account territorial inequalities and needs.

      • Firmer steps must be taken to mainstream both a gender perspective and interculturality and to value diversity in education. Education systems can thus contribute to dissipating asymmetric relationships and positions in society and recognize the value of the knowledge and cultural development that different groups and peoples can provide, incorporating them into the system.

      • Teachers and the approach they take to schooling are central to shaping the educational experience.

      • While data and information exist, the education statistics available in the region suffer from significant limitations.

      • Being left behind in educational achievement is associated with being left behind in the workplace; secondary school completion is thus the minimum expected to access decent work.
      • Young people are vulnerable across multiple dimensions regarding access to quality education and work. The provision of training for employment is essential.

      • Paths of progression through education need to be made more robust. Achieving universal secondary education requires timely entrance, as well as retention and completion.

      • Rates of repetition and school lag have fallen in the region, but they remain high and are concentrated among males.

      • In relation to target 4.3 (by 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university), access to technical, vocational and tertiary training is segmented by sex.

      • There are major gaps in teaching qualifications among the region’s countries, which has an impact on the fulfilment of target 4.c (by 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States).

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

    Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
    in Latin America and the Caribbean

    The analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) presented here is the outcome of the discussions held within the framework of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and Caribbean on Sustainable Development, convened under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Challenges and opportunities for the implementation, follow-up and review of SDG 4 and its targets

    • Challenges

      • The region is facing a challenge with regard to school dropout and the retention of students in secondary education, because students are unlikely to return once they have left the education system.

      • One of the main factors behind dropout from secondary school is lack of interest or disillusionment with the education on offer.

      • It is a challenge to attract and retain committed teachers and thereby foster the provision of quality education delivered from a people-centred perspective that treats the pupil as an individual (target 4.c).

      • Giving women access to education and health on an equal footing to enable them to gain access to decent jobs.

      • Countries must invest in strengthening the education system and linking education with education on sexuality and reproduction, with the involvement of civil society.

      • Although some modest improvements have been seen in learning outcomes, basic skills teaching needs to be improved in the region.

      • National and international information systems must be improved to capture the context and characteristics of individuals, to identify who is being left out or left behind and thereby plan effective responses to the existing challenges.

      • o In the case of the so-called millennial generation, the decision on whether to enter employment or education is no small matter, since it is influenced by gaps in access to education, opportunities or limitations in the labour market, low wages, whether there are care systems (a particularly relevant factor for women), the existence of apprenticeship programmes, labour intermediation, distance learning alternatives and tools to guard against high-risk risk behaviours related to alcohol, drugs and depression.


      • The SDGs should be incorporated into curricula, in order to make students aware of progress towards their achievement.

      • The issue of Internet access should be considered when referring to the digital revolution and the infinite applications of technology.

      • Young people must be afforded the option of pursuing activities in formal and informal education by technologically-enabled means to reduce inequalities of access.

      • It is necessary to emphasize the importance of lifelong learning and of making training part of people’s working lives.

Lessons learned and good practices with respect to SDG 4 and its targets

      • Teachers play a crucial role in students’ lives, in relation to their completion of secondary education or their return in cases of dropout; teachers can act as mentors to motivate students to finish secondary school, persevere with their dreams and aspirations, and believe in themselves.

Recommendations from Latin America and the Caribbean to achieve SDG 4 and its targets

      • Efforts must focus on restoring teachers’ passion for teaching and on encouraging an approach centred on students as multifaceted individuals, rather than just their academic performance.

      • It is important to listen to the voices of students, both in the classroom and in their local, national and global community. This would enable more concrete, experience-based resolution of education-related issues.

      • Urgently implement multidimensional and joined-up measures to link school completion and entry to work. As a key space for this transition, technical and vocational education and training must be strengthened and updated.
      • Review curriculums to reduce gender bias in selection of areas of training. This could be complemented by innovations in positive discrimination policies for areas that are traditionally linked to one of the sexes.

      • Address the lack of innovation in teaching, to provide quality education at all levels.