Building on the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, billed by the UN as “An Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance.” The seventeen ambitious goals, which are intended to be reached by 2030, are conceived as integrated, indivisible, and as balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. They are organized around five core pillars:
• people: ending poverty and hunger and ensuring that all human beings can lead fulfilling lives in a healthy and dignified environment
• planet: protecting the environment while ensuring sustainable use and management of natural resources
• prosperity: ensuring environmentally sustainable economic growth, mutual prosperity, and decent work for all
• peace: building societies that are peaceful, just and inclusive, and in which human rights and gender equality are respected
• partnership: strengthening global solidarity to address inequalities within and between countries, by focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable.
This Research Topic addresses the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, which is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Progress toward this goal is measured by a number of by a number of individual targets and indicators
The UN has described the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schooling as a “general catastrophe.” Its most recent SDG progress report
notes that, while progress toward the fourth goal was already slow and insufficient, the coronavirus crisis has wiped out the educational gains achieved over the past twenty years. With early education and school closures affecting learning across the board, it is estimated that 101 million children fell below the minimum reading proficiency level in 2020. Similarly, modest increases in organized pre-primary learning between 2010 and 2019 were reversed, with setbacks also expected to primary and secondary school completion rates. Meanwhile, national and international disparities were exacerbated due to unequal access to distance learning technologies. In emerging from the pandemic, the UN also noted the need for improvements to school infrastructure in lower-income countries, including drinking water, electricity and handwashing facilities.
The Research Topic will address the fourth Sustainable Development Goal from a communication-specific perspective. It will not only enquire into its global promulgation and into individual local, national and international communication programs in support of it, but will also consider the framing and elaboration of the goal, its adaptation to particular geographical contexts, stakeholder involvement in it, and media reporting on it.
Given the setbacks to educational systems across the world from the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s edition of the Research Topic will focus particularly on the challenges and complexities of ensuring quality education in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.