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UNESCO Calls for Benchmarks for Digital Access and Green Education

UNESCO's education committee is calling on world governments to set benchmark indicators to measure progress with respect to Internet connectivity, student access to online learning and environmental education.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) High-Level Steering Committee on Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) is asking member countries to step up efforts with digital connectivity and environmental education by setting benchmarks to measure progress in the coming years.

The committee's recommendations are a product of its Dec. 9 convention at the UNESCO Paris headquarters, following up the Transforming Education Summit earlier this fall, according to a news release. The committee is comprised of representatives from the United Nations and education partner agencies from a dozen countries striving to make quality education more widely accessible by 2030. SDG4 is the education-focused component among 17 sustainable-development goals established in 2015 by the United Nations, defined as "ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all."

According to the UNESCO Setting Commitments: National SDG4 Benchmarks to Transform Education report, roughly three in four countries worldwide have committed to making measurable progress in at least some of the seven areas identified by the committee, including early childhood education attendance, out-of-school rates, completion rates, gender gaps in completion rates, minimum proficiency rates in reading and mathematics, number of trained teachers, and public education expenditure.

In the meeting this month, the committee called on world leaders to back the summit's recommendations. To that end, it said that countries should create their own nationwide targets to reach the green and digital education benchmarks, the release said. The SDG4 Benchmarks report predicted that by 2030, only one in six countries will come close to having 95 percent of its youth completing secondary school, with 84 million youth out of school worldwide.

“Ensuring that all children and youth are climate ready, improving schools’ digital connectivity and students’ access to online learning contents are critical goals,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a public statement.

The release said that the benchmarks will measure the progress that each country intends to achieve, with checks in 2025 and again in 2030. Those check-ins will call for tangible proof of progress such as the number of schools that are green-accredited; the extent to which national laws, policies and standards cover climate education; and overall connectivity of facilities and students pertaining to digital education, it said.

A UNESCO spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.