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Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and sustainable development.

Major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrolment rates in schools particularly for women and girls.

In some countries, however, stunting and malnutrition prevent children from going to school, compromising their learning ability and depriving them of a better future. The vast majority of primary school age children who do not attend school are from rural areas. Among them, millions of children are trapped in child labour in agriculture.

Coordinating with other UN agencies to support improved access to primary education, FAO assists countries in establishing school gardens and school-feeding programmes, Right to Food legislation and social protection programmes. These initiatives can encourage school attendance, bring direct nutritional and physical development benefits to young children, and have long-lasting social, economic and environmental benefits for the community as a whole.

FAO promotes education systems sensitive to the needs of agricultural and rural communities, a “whole school” approach to nutrition education, in which classroom learning is linked with practical activities, reinforced by a nutrition- and health-friendly school environment involving the participation of all school staff, families and the community.

Sensitive to the needs of agricultural and rural communities, FAO encourages the adoption of school calendars more compatible with seasonal rural work and training curricula better adapted to equip rural youth with the skills required in the rural labour markets.

Rural people, especially youth and women, have very limited access to sound learning opportunities. Yet, equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning are key to ensuring sustainable agricultural development and inclusive rural transformation. 

Facts and figures

  • Worldwide, nearly 60 percent of child labour is found in agriculture
  • About 100 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 years are identified as child labourers in agriculture
  • More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Worldwide, the average out-of-school rate is twice as much in rural areas compared with urban areas
  • About half of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas
  • School food programmes not only promote school attendance, but can improve a child’s nutrition and general health while helping to increase the income of community farmers

SDG4 Targets

  1. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes
  2. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
  3. By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
  4. By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
  5. By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
  6. By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
  7. By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

a. Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all

b. By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries

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

Skills development for youth

Social and environmental benefits of quality education adapted to the needs of rural community

FAO-ILO Visual Facilitator’s Guide: “Protecting Children from Pesticides”

For Africa:

For Latin America and the Caribbean

For Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia

For Asia and the Pacific

For Near East and North Africa




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