The forth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) declares that, by 2030, the world ought to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning“. This statement entails notorious ambitions in terms of concept, demography and planning. The previous notion of Education for All was conditioned by the focus of the Millennium Development Goal 2 on achieving universal primary education. However, SDG-4 entails commitments with students’ diversity, quality learning and education along the life course. Since primary-school age children are not the only priority, completion and transition between school levels are taken into account in a more explicit way. In addition, it requires aligning school education with other policy areas such as early childhood care and education, schemes for students with special education needs, vocational education and training, adult education, career guidance and others. In this briefing paper we want to highlight that all these objectives eventually express the growing concern of policy-makers and civil society organisations with social inequalities. For decades, research has convincingly shown that the potential of education to render equal opportunities to everybody is severely hampered worldwide. In fact, an array of mechanisms reproduce disadvantages between generations. Since many institutional and economic bottlenecks constrain the capacity of educational policies in middle- and low-income countries, international donors must also be aware of the many consequences of these inequalities.

Authors Xavier Rambla, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ESP), Margarita Langthaler, Austrian Foundation for Development Research (ÖFSE)