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Sustainable Development Goal Four has to do with education in the post-2015 development agenda. It aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
Given the essential role of curriculum in enabling quality learning and in articulating and supporting education that is relevant to holistic development, our purpose in this paper is to identify what makes a quality curriculum, so as to support curricular innovation in UNESCO Member States to the end of the realization of Sustainable Development Goal Four.
In this we are assuming that curriculum, given its essential role in the provision of quality learning for all children and young people, and in articulating and supporting education that is relevant to holistic development, is critical in the realization of SDG 4. It is the curriculum that determines to a large extent whether education is inclusive, thus playing a significant role in ensuring that provision is equitable. It is the curriculum that provides the structure for the provision of quality learning, especially where teachers might be under-qualified and inexperienced, their classrooms under-resourced, and their students lacking the prior frameworks within which to situate their learning. And it is the curriculum that articulates both the competencies necessary for lifelong learning and the competencies needed for holistic development. We thus argue that curriculum lies at the crossroads of these four key aspects of SDG 4: that education should be (1) inclusive and equitable, (2) characterized by quality learning, (3) promoting lifelong learning, and (4) relevant to holistic development. Curriculum, in other words, provides the bridge between education and development – and it is the competencies associated with lifelong learning and aligned with development needs, in the broadest, holistic sense of the term, that span that bridge.
Given the nature of the audience for which we are writing, the paper is necessarily pitched at a general level. A challenge in writing a paper such as this is how best to make it relevant to all countries when education systems, and particularly teachers’ skills and qualifications, vary so widely across the world. Curriculum development needs, after all, to take into account where any country is in terms of the current breadth and depth of curriculum; attainment levels; the quality of teachers; the range and effectiveness of teaching, learning and assessment practices; the quality of the infrastructure at local education authority level and at national level; and the like. Our audience is world-wide, with actors at many levels of the education system and in very different national, economic, political, historical, social and cultural contexts. That said, our primary intended reader group would include curriculum policy makers at various levels, and curriculum developers. We invite colleagues in Member States to contextualize the generalities of this paper. The IBE and its partners stand ready to work with Member States to respond innovatively to the challenges associated with the effective realization of SDG 4.