Instructional / Course Design,  Sustainability

SDG 4 Quality Education – Embedding the Sustainable Development Goals in Learning

This blog post is part of a series around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each post will dive into one of the goals and how we as educators can strive to embed these into our own courses. It is in the author’s opinion that any course or class can connect with one of the 17 goals or 169 sub-targets. By providing this blog post series, we hope to elicit some ideas of how you might also integrate a global goal into your teaching. Please refer to the USask SDG Teaching & Learning Workbook, review the USask Sustainability in the Curricula website, or scroll down for more information about the SDGs.

SDG 4 is ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. In many parts of the world, women, people with disabilities, Indigenous People and victims of conflict do not have access to quality education. Reflect on how, in Canada, “government-funded, church-run schools were set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children.”[i] This goal aims to ensure that by 2030 everyone has access to equitable basic education so we can understand the world around us, critically reflect on what we see, do, and hear and make informed choices about our health and well-being. When people are able to access quality education, they are able to begin breaking the cycle of poverty, learn about sustainable living, make healthy choices and inform themselves and their communities about important issues. Education unlocks the potential for many other SDGs to be achieved.  Improving the quality of education needs to include education about sustainability and our environment. Engaging students to think critically about the world around us and how our practices and policies have an impact on the environment will help sustain the momentum for change. When we don’t include aspects of environmentalism and sustainable development in education models and systems, we miss the opportunity to educate future generations on the important issues of our time. Our ability to pass on important knowledge to improve how we engage with our environment and resources is then limited, hindering future generations. Additionally, it is important to inform students about their rights to accommodations based on disability, religion, family status, and gender identity.

You might be able to align your teaching to this SDG if you want your students to be able to:

  • embed sustainable development into education and lifelong learning (formal and informal)
  • understand the value of education as a public good, fundamental human right, and also as a basis for empowerment.
  • design educational experiences which help to create a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world.
  • raise awareness of the importance of quality education for all and find ways to motivate others to take action on this issue.
  • understand, identify and promote gender equality in education.

You might consider having your students reflect, share, act in some of these ways:

  • Host a documentary screening. Find films that focus on an aspect of quality education in your discipline. Invite classmates, colleagues and community members to join in on a creative learning experience. An example might be Picture a Scientist, a film about women in science providing perspectives on how to make science more inclusive.
  • Start an awareness campaign or initiative that focuses on educating others on the lack of quality education around the world or even at home.
  • Work to achieve quality education in your own community. Focus on accessible supplies, accessible buildings and structures, sports equipment and educational opportunities for students. Consider connecting with agencies such as SaskAbilities
  • Help others understand how a lack of quality education affects everyone. Design a campaign to give people the opportunity to explore their right to education and learn about others around the world who are denied this right. An example might be the Malala Fund which champions girls’ secondary education around the world.

Some curricular connections and questions for students might be:


What are the big issues being reported in your community about education?

Oppression and genocide

How do conflict and oppression impact education?


How can we turn education about the environment into action?

Health and biotechnology

What can education do for health promotion?

Poverty, wealth and power

How is access to education related to poverty?

Gender politics

How is education a gendered issue?

Peace and conflict

What is peace and global citizenship education about?

Social justice and human rights

How are social justice opportunities and human rights impacted by education?

Indigenous Peoples

What are the barriers and opportunities for Indigenous Peoples in education?


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals — also known as the SDGs or the Global Goals —came into effect on January 1, 2016 following an historic United Nations Summit in September 2015. 193 governments from around the world agreed to implement the Goals within their own countries in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

These new, interconnected goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, while also identifying new priority areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among others.

Although each country faces specific challenges in pursuit of sustainable development, special attention is given to the most vulnerable countries, in particular, African countries, less developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states. There are also serious challenges within many middle-income countries.

For each of the 17 goals, there is a list of specific targets we aim to reach. The targets discussed in this guide have been summarized for ease of reading. For a more detailed list of all the 169 targets, visit

This content has been adapted from the original by the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning and the University of Saskatchewan from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation. Users are free to download, copy, print and share this resource as needed, and adapt for their classroom or non-commercial use.

If you adapt or build on this work, please let MCIC or USask know!  

Sustainable Foundations: A Guide for Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.  To view a copy of this license, visit   

Original document

[i] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada


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