SDG 4 - Education

Click on the box to enable country comparisons on the SDG Gender Index by SDG and by indicator.


of child, early and forced marriages would fall if girls completed
secondary education (estimated in 2013)


million child deaths over the past 40 years have been prevented from increased education for women


of the world’s
774 million illiterate adults were women (in 2014)

SDG 4 and Quality Education

SDG 4 has a strong gender perspective, grounded in evidence on the close links between girls’ education and social and economic development, including poverty reduction: one additional school year can increase a woman’s earnings by 10% to 20%; each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying as a child by five percentage points or more; and a child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of five.

To date, only two thirds of the world’s countries have achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment, and just over one third have achieved parity in lower secondary enrolment.

Girls living in rural poverty still face the greatest barriers to education, and families that cannot afford to send all children to school may choose to send only their sons. Such educational gaps can undermine a girl’s earnings in later life, and her chances of genuine participation in society.

However, SDG 4 goes far beyond enrolment. It also recognizes the challenges presented by a lack of the necessary increases in resources, infrastructure and teachers to cope with the growing number of students in schools, often resulting in poor learning outcomes.

UNESCO estimates from 2012 suggested that, globally, approximately 250 million children of primary school age had not acquired basic literacy or numeracy skills, some even after four years of schooling

SDG 4 emphasizes learning outcomes driven by curricula reform, teacher training and the reduction of violence against girls in school, and covers all types of learning (formal, informal, technical and vocational).

Plan International / Bill Tanaka, Equal Measures 2030
Plan International / Bill Tanaka

Click on a box to learn about the goal’s related issues, indicators and its relevance to gender equality.

Key findings from the SDG Gender Index

  • Literacy skills:

    Among the focus countries, Indonesia and Colombia have the highest Index scores for literacy—critical to women’s full participation in society—with 94% of women (15+) demonstrating basic literacy skills. In comparison, only 34% of women in Senegal are literate.

  • Secondary education: 

    Over half of young women in Colombia, El Salvador and Indonesia who are 3 – 5 years above upper secondary school graduation age complete secondary education. A wide gap exists between Colombia, the top scoring country (77%) and Senegal (6.1%), which lags behind the other focus countries.

Gender Equality Issues Without Sufficient Global Data

Here we highlight the ‘missing’ critical gender equality issues that we weren’t able to include in the Index due to insufficient globally comparable data. These ‘missing’ issues can help form part of an advocacy agenda calling for more and better gender data, contributing to existing calls for gaps in gender data to be filled.

Age at first pregnancy

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) as part of national curriculum and activities within schools

Girls under five years of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being


Equal Measures 2030 Partners