Partnerships for Achieving SDG 4: Quality Education
The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Ensuring that everyone everywhere has access to the right education and educational opportunities. The global goal set these targets;
- Free primary and secondary education
- Equal access to pre-primary education
- Equal access to affordable technical, vocational, and higher education
- Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success
- Eliminate all discrimination in education
- Universal literacy and numeracy
- Education for sustainable development and global leadership
- Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools
- Expand higher education scholarships for developing countries
- Increase the supply of qualified teachers in developing countries
Partnerships as a Goal
There is a reason why the final SDG (SDG 17) is Partnerships for the Goals. None of them can be achieved without collaboration and coordination that ensures efforts are appropriately channeled and allocated. Partnership necessitates cooperation in the areas of resources (financial and otherwise), investments, sharing of knowledge, promoting the use of technology, and measuring and reporting on progress.
Various actors are working in various areas of education. This means that beyond seeking to create more initiatives and programs, there is a need to promote collaboration between existing ones and new actors who are looking to contribute. Partnerships will improve our efforts’ efficiency and effectiveness by making the right use of resources, distributing them where they are needed (to the extent that they are), and creating standards that, while global, are still meaningful and valuable in local contexts.
Understanding Partnerships for Education
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) describes itself as the world’s only partnership and fund platform focused on ensuring quality education for children in lower-income countries. It is a great place to start when thinking about how partnerships can help us solve the problems in education and scale solutions across societies. GPE brings together different partners to create a multi-stakeholder partnership with varying interests, capacities, and representativeness. These partners include countries, donors, international organizations, civil society(including youth and teacher organizations), the private sector, and private foundations. It has a partners portal that documents these partnerships, which are summarized in the visual below;
This is one example of how partnerships for education can look, and the kind of impact they can have. It is an example, but it does not have to be the (only) standard or sole model for this. Partnership at its core is an endeavor that involves more than one party. In business, we learn that a partnership is an agreement between two or more people where they combine resources and share risks to achieve shared goals. We can and should learn from this definition.
In education, partnership means two or more people/organizations/groupings, which come together to combine or share resources to improve education. Resources is an all-encompassing word that covers the tangibles like money and facilities, as well as the intangibles such as information and knowledge.
Partnerships can be loosely formed or made into formal structures. The former refers to an initiative and program-focused approach where partnerships exist between independent actors who cooperate on specific areas, on a program basis, while maintaining their separate structures and day-to-day activities. The latter is an organization-focused approach that seeks to bring separate entities into a formal organization and all or majority of activities are undertaken within the context of the new organization.
Getting into the action
You can either join an existing partnership or create a new one. But, both options present different levels of difficulty. Creating requires finding the right partners and building from scratch. Joining means looking for existing ones that fit your goals and capacity. Failing to find one to join might mean having to create one. On the other hand, if you start off creating and discovering existing partnerships that almost or completely replicate what you are trying to build, then it is necessary to consider joining.
Essential elements for partnerships
- Relevant Skills
- Effective Communication
- Activities and programs
What partners can bring to the table
- Financial Resources
What partners get from the table
The first and most obvious point in this direction is the opportunity to fulfill goals aligned with interests in the area of education. Partnerships enable individual players to get more accomplished than they might have to go it alone. By bringing together their expertise and resources, they can scale the impact of their work, either through bigger programs in the same location or by replicating them in new ones.
Other benefits can accrue to the partners themselves, depending on what kind of partner they are (sector and size differentiators especially). This is some of what the UN says about partnerships:
The 2030 Agenda offers the private sector numerous opportunities to access new markets and institutional investment, estimated at $12 trillion by 2030 while adding 380 million new jobs. Of these, half of the value of the opportunities arise in developing countries. The majority of these jobs, almost 90%, will be created in developing countries. This in itself is a compelling argument for the private sector and governments to work together to make the 2030 Agenda a reality.
In summary, partnerships are also a growth opportunity for partners. Through work done, they can improve their capabilities, strengthen their portfolios, interact with different and influential stakeholders, and possibly drive funding in their direction. Partnerships do not have to be a loss for participating bodies, in terms of contributions made to these areas. They should not be seen as one, or even as an opportunity to check CSR or public good as done on a list.
SDG 4 targets (listed at the beginning) are a good starting point for those looking for areas to direct their efforts to contribute to education. The latest UN Statistics reports on Goal 4 (2021), can be found here. Partnerships can also be formally registered with the UN on its partnerships platform. There are currently 1502 partnerships registered on the platform with information on what they entail. This is another learning direction for creating partnerships or discovering existing ones that you can become a part of. Beyond the UN website, there are partnerships that you might find in your immediate (physical or virtual) environment if you look for them.
Because it is worth repeating this bit;
Partnerships when done right will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our efforts by making the right use of resources, distributing them where they are needed (to the extent that they are), and creating standards that while global, can still be meaningful in local contexts.