Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, goes the old adage, teach him to fish and you feed him for life. It should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Education is one of the cornerstones of both the green economy and the global pursuit of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is quite simply impossible to engineer a rapid shift to a decarbonised, clean, and healthy economy without a concerted focus on the skills required to enable and deliver such a transition. And although government may be the primary provider of education in many countries, it is also a topic of critical importance to the long-term health and vitality of the business community. And yet, four years on from the introduction of the SDGs, quality education is still neither universally accessible nor universally accepted as a social and economic good.

The headline aim of the UN’s fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) is to deliver “quality education” for all, ensuring that all children globally are educated at primary and secondary levels by 2030. Access to universal education should be free and equitable, and it should teach young people the skills they need for life, it continues. The goal also seeks to give all children access to good early childhood care so that they are ready for primary education, and, as if the relevance for businesses was not already clear enough, for all adults to have access to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, including university. The general premise is that ‘life-long learning’ needs to become more than an aspirational buzz-phrase if people and businesses are to prosper in a fast-changing global economy.

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