12/07/15 : Miguel Codinera

Sustainable Development through Education

In the 21st century, economists and policymakers alike have recognized education as a catalyst for growing economies and social well-being. However, what has often been excluded in development rhetoric is the importance of quality education over the mere presence of schools. On September 25th 2015, leaders from around the globe converged in New York City to discuss the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Expanding upon the Millennium Development Goals created in 2000, the new SDGs serve as targeted paths for countries to achieve a sustainable, equitable and poverty-free world by 2030. Among the 17 new goals, quality education stands as one of the most salient.

The challenges of implementing quality education are not confined to only the developing world. In fact, inequality in education exists all across the United States. Schools with low funding and different learning standards are often unable to provide their students with clear paths to success in higher education and for the workforce. Just last year, the state of California saw high school dropout rates as high as 18 percent; racially disaggregated data revealed rates of 23 percent among Latinos and 30 percent among African-Americans.

Next Steps

To address these circumstances, one of the targets in SDG four is to “substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.” Subsidized educational/vocational supplements for schools would be especially helpful in reaching underprivileged communities.

For example, the Alliance’s PowerSave Schools program (PSS) has worked actively to provide hands-on STEM and energy efficiency training to minority students and students of low-income backgrounds. Through energy audits and interactive lessons, schools from around the country have been able to offer students the substantive skills and introductory knowledge necessary for a career in the growing energy field. Overall, giving all students a fair chance at success is very possible. And as the U.S. continues to emphasize its commitment to the SDGs and America’s youth becomes better acquainted with the value of efficiency, each energy-efficient light bulb that is installed signals one thing: the future is looking bright.