Critical perspectives at the mid-point of Sustainable Development Goal 4: quality education for all—progress, persistent gaps, problematic paradigms, and the path to 2030

D. Brent Edwards, M. Niaz Asadullah, Amber Webb

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This editorial essay introduces the 27 papers included in the special issue proposed by the SDG Academy of the U.N. Sustainable Development Network on the nature, extent, and challenges to progress towards SDG 4: Quality Education for All at the mid-point of the 2030 campaign. Problematic paradigms, and potential pathways towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4. With contributrions from leading scholars and practitioners working in the areas of global governance, international development education, and comparative education, this special issue reflects on how far the world has come, provides clarity on what the fundamental obstacles to progress have been, and offers suggestions for ways forward, in addition to raising issues and posing (at times, uncomfortable) questions with which stakeholders should grapple as they work towards SDG 4—and future global goals. The commentaries are focused on five inter-connected themes. These themes relate not only to progress on SDG 4 but also to the key conditions (capacity), processes (measurement), and contexts (e.g. vulnerable contexts) that are relevant to debates about how to make progress on SDG 4, or whether a different approach (geo-political and/or onto-epistemic in nature) is necessary. This essay concludes by encouraging the reader to decide for themselves which arguments they see as being more persuasive. We wouldencourage readers to reflect on why one argument or line of reasoning may resonate more or less—and to consider what the cause of that resonance could be. It is suggested that each reader, each of us, also has work to do when it comes to reflecting on the positions that we take or favor, why, and which voices or perspectives are left out by our answers to these questions. As the contributions to this special issue suggest, there are no easy answers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103031
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Education for All
  • Global development
  • Global education
  • Global governance
  • SDG 4
  • SDG4
  • Sustainable development goals

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