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Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals


I consider myself a well-read person who manages to stay on top of most of the current news despite the distractions from multiple media sources as well as warring political factions. In a recent article about Artificial Intelligence (AI), I read a statement about AI’s influence on SDG 4, quality education.

I had no idea what SDG 4 was, where it came from, and its context in the AI discussion, so I typed it in my search engine and the top choice was the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development Goals webpage.

I’m not a United Nations neophyte. Thanks to our International Relations faculty and students, the American Public University System (APUS) participated in the Model U.N. program during my tenure as its president. APUS also had an education partnership with the Peace Operations Training Institute (POTI), a non-profit training partner of the U.N.

It’s clear to me that most of our media focus in the U.S. in recent years has been about the differences between the two major political parties on just about every domestic and international issue related to the U.S. with limited focus on global issues and the U.N. At the same time, we (the United States) have at various times cut or withheld funding to the U.N. because of disagreement with its direction on some issues.

As it turns out, the Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) acts as the “Secretariat for the Sustainable Development Goals, providing substantive support and capacity-building for the goals and their thematic issues, the Global Sustainable Development Report, and the UN system-wide implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

The 17 Goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnership for the Goals

The links for each of these 17 goals leads the reader to more specific language about the goal and current progress toward hitting targets set by the U.N.

Rather than extending the length of this post by providing information about each of the goals, I opted to look at SDG 4 (Quality Education), the impetus for me finding out about this U.N. initiative. The webpage is organized in three sections: overview, targets and indicators, and progress and info.

The overview is portrayed in the infographic displayed below.

While we’re still debating the impact of COVID-19 on education in the U.S., the estimated impact of the pandemic on a global basis is astounding.

There are seven targets for SDG 4. In order, these targets are:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
  • 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.
  • By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, including university.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.
  • 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.

Indicators for each of the targets are provided on the webpage along with links to relevant events and news. Unfortunately, most of the events and news links for the education SDG page do not appear to have been updated since July 2021.

A review of the Description section of SDG 4 indicates that education for all has been included in sustainable development goals since 2002 and maybe earlier. Sadly, like most education initiatives in the U.S., the target dates to achieve universal primary education and the elimination of gender disparity have passed.

From my perspective, the first six of the seven SDG 4 Education goals should be non-controversial in the U.S. Sadly, there are countries that have not committed to gender equity, a vital component of all six. The seventh goal is important, but likely controversial among some who associate sustainable development with global warming and climate change. Sustainable development is much broader and includes the goal of maintaining and replenishing our valuable resources, maintaining the environment, and keeping our planet inhabitable for future generations.

Continuing advances in technology have made the world a much smaller place. At the same time, there is no doubt that it has increased income and wealth disparity globally. Over the years, education has proven to be the great equalizer. Americans should embrace these education goals domestically as well as globally. We only need to look at the continued global impact of the pandemic to illustrate why we need to value the importance of improving the quality of life for every person, not just our neighbors and countrymen.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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