Goal 4 seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, ensuring that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling, to provide equal access to vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and to achieve universal access to higher education.


BY 2030
  • Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
  • Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.
  • Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
  • Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.
  • Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.


children, youth and adolescents are out of school


of children are not meeting minimum reading and mathematics standards

1 in 4

girls in developing countries are not enrolled in school

Education is one of the powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. 19 Achieving SDG4 ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary education by 2030, and aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training and to achieve universal access to quality higher education.
Since 2000, there has been enormous progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. In 2015, the total enrollment rate in developing countries reached 91 percent.16 However, progress has been slow in some developing areas due to high levels of poverty and conflict.


primary school aged children remain out of school today and more than half of these are in sub-Saharan Africa. In developing countries, one in four girls are not enrolled in school.
Education is a key to escaping poverty. Nevertheless, millions of children are still out of school, and not all who do attend are learning.
More than half of all children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.
Disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes are found across regions. Many developing countries still lack basic infrastructure and facilities to provide effective learning environments.
Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest challenges: at the primary and lower secondary levels, less than half of schools have access to electricity, the Internet, computers and basic drinking water.


In 2019, SDG4 was reviewed at the High-Level Political Forum. Data showed that in 2018 there were 258 million children, adolescents and youth out of school. While the number appeared to have dropped from 262 million in 2017, the fall was largely due to a methodological change in the way the indicators are calculated.


Girls continue to face the greatest barriers. Nine million girls of primary school age will never spend a day in school, compared to about three million boys. In sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates and numbers of out-of-school children, four million girls will never set foot in a classroom compared to two million boys.20
children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age lack minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. The learning crisis not only threatens an individual’s ability to climb out of poverty, it also jeopardises the economic future of entire nations as they struggle to compete in a global marketplace with less-than-skilled human resources.
To achieve SDG 4 it is vital that free and compulsory education is offered. However, currently, less than one in five countries globally guarantee 12 years of both free and compulsory education. In 2018 it was reported that approximately 70 per cent of all countries have at least nine years of compulsory education, with much lower rates seen in sub-Saharan Africa.22
Seventy-three percent of territories report that they had undertaken new strategies or implemented new programmes related to ensuring inclusive and quality education for all within the last five years. Initiatives include, but are not limited to:


  • educating parents around the importance of schooling
  • family literacy programmes
  • parenting skills classes for parents to learn how to effectively deliver educational programmes at home for children with special needs
  • local learning centres
  • community and church-based libraries
  • Salvation Army-run schools
  • community schools for those who are unable to pay national fees
  • nursing training centres
  • building of schools
  • schools for children with visual and hearing impairments
  • literacy classes for women
  • literacy, comprehension and logical thinking classes for children
  • anti-human trafficking education for children
  • music and arts classes and reading rooms
  • training for teachers in Salvation Army schools
  • robotics course for children to experience technologies through play
  • nutrition workshops
  • general knowledge and Bible knowledge programmes
  • career development programmes
  • language courses and education for immigrants
  • adult literacy classes for vulnerable women
  • mentoring programmes
  • literacy for elders
  • after-school programmes where children can receive help with their homework
  • courses for the elderly on innovation and technology and creative thinking, anger management classes, and youth mentoring.
  • educational programmes to help with learning skills needed to enter the job market


Sixty-two percent of territories partner with other stakeholders or organisations to help with inclusive and quality education. Partners include local cities and governments, government education departments, local primary and secondary schools, local businesses, sports clubs, NGOs, Rotary clubs, higher education learning centres, social enterprise partners, education and youth affairs bureaux, universities, other churches, community leaders, local education centres and authorities, and teacher training establishments.
SIXTY PERCENT of territories report that they have plans in place for future initiatives regarding inclusive and quality education. These include:
  • the creation of alternative schools
  • family literacy programmes
  • community libraries
  • mentoring programmes
  • skills training programmes
  • more support for children with special educational needs
  • establishment of a university with access for all
  • afterschool programmes to help children with homework
  • creation of training services for Salvation Army clients
  • opening of a secondary school and adult learning centre
  • lobbying the Government for more support for schools
  • vocational training centres
  • coaching facilities for school-aged children for core school subjects
  • helping to develop and equip teaching staff
  • the building of more schools in rural areas where government schools are not available
  • language courses


Located in the remote mountainous region of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia is the small village of Wulai. The village has minimal infrastructure, and The Salvation Army's Wulai Corps and school play a significant role in providing services to the community.

In 2016 The Salvation Army initiated a project in the village using project funds from the Territorial Helping Hand Fund to establish a Reading House - a village library. The library provides a collection of fiction and non-fiction books for the children and adults in the village.

The long-term goal of the women in the Wulai Corps is to eradicate illiteracy in their village. The library assists children with their education - increasing their knowledge and helping them to develop a love of reading. The women in the Corps also want to assist the adults in the community to learn to read.

Clinic personnel identify children at risk of being malnourished and Salvation Army members take responsibility to set up and organise the Reading House and the Youth and Sunday School teachers assist in maintaining the library.


In 2018 The Salvation Army in Liberia broadened its education capacity with the opening of a polytechnic, which awards degrees and other tertiary qualifications.

Education is a major need in Liberia, which is rebuilding after years of civil unrest and still recovering from the 2014–15 outbreak of Ebola. National government statistics estimate that just 47 per cent of the country’s 4.8 million population are literate, with most of Liberia’s children and young people living in communities with little or no opportunity for formal education. It is in this context, and with a 25-year heritage of providing primary and secondary education in the country, that The Salvation Army opened its first polytechnic in the nation’s capital, Monrovia.

The building – opposite Monrovia City Hall and adjacent to the United Nations complex in the city – was constructed with financial support from The Salvation Army’s Norway, Iceland and the Færoes Territory between 2004 and 2008. However, it was not until 2017 that the country’s Commission on Higher Education accredited the institution, bestowing the right to run tertiary education programmes and offer associate degrees in various disciplines.

At the opening 300 students were enrolled. They are studying for diplomas and associate degrees in a range of disciplines from building construction and electrical engineering to auto mechanics, electronics and computer science. Other courses include teacher training, marketing, procurement and contract management, theology, nursing, and human resources management. A host of qualified and experienced faculty members have been appointed.  

In a speech, the polytechnic’s President, Dr Emmanuel K. Urey, reflected on his first four months, which included the renovation of the college’s main building and the recruitment of the first intake of tertiary-level students. Outlining his vision, he predicted that the ‘future of the school will be bright’ as he spoke about the prospects of venturing into additional subject areas such as agriculture and renewable energy technology. He called on national and international partners to support the polytechnic.


IIn Guatemala there are five Salvation Army-run schools educating around 600 pupils aged four to 12 years. When the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in March 2020 it created immense challenges for the schools.

One of the schools is located in Guatemala City and lies in one of the most dangerous zones in the country. Even in normal times, economic poverty and drug addiction are rife. Life before COVID-19 was already tough, but when the coronavirus hit, the school realised that it was going to have to develop a whole new strategy to support its children.

The majority of families do not have access to broadband Internet or computer technology, so providing online classes was not going to be possible. However, many parents do have a smart phone and data access to WhatsApp, so that is where they started.

Work materials were sent out as attachments to parents’ phones via WhatsApp, along with links to YouTube videos, and class group video calls were arranged where possible. For those families without smart phones, the team of teachers (where restrictions on movement allowed) visited families in order to take worksheets to children’s homes and keep in touch with the families.

Support phone calls have also been particularly important for families, especially for those who have had to isolate due to a family member suffering from COVID-19. Where possible the schools have also tried to support isolating and other particularly vulnerable families with food and other necessities for their children.

While the situation in the city has been difficult, at Chimaltenango – another of the schools, more than an hour’s drive from Guatemala City – the challenges are multiplied by its rural location. In this area, the community is much more vulnerable. Many people speak only Kaqchiquel (not Spanish), electricity and other basic services are not available to the general population, and access to smart phones and mobile data is not common. Despite this, teachers are doing their utmost to keep pupils connected and supplied with learning materials.

The teachers continue to make huge efforts to bring variety into the lockdown lives of their pupils in order to boost their emotional well-being. Each week they try to do something different to inspire the children and their family members, such as sending exercise videos, putting on puppet shows via WhatsApp, and sending daily challenges.

Schools Spotlight

There are more than 2,000 schools in The Salvation Army, educating in excess of 500,000 children. Salvation Army schools are central to the mission objectives of many territories and offer an incredible opportunity. Schools have the potential to shape young people's lives by ensuring they receive a quality Christian education and are enabled to play a meaningful role in their community.

The IHQ Schools Department exists to develop strategies that will provide support for education providers to ensure that pupils leave school aware of Christ's love and confident in their ability to achieve their God-given potential.

The key principles and focus areas for Salvation Army schools are outlined in the International Schools Strategy. The vision statement focuses on what all Salvation Army schools should try to achieve.

Salvation Army schools seek to develop compassionate people of integrity and character with the relevant skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve their full God-given potential. This will be achieved by developing quality, holistic, faith-based, family-focused education prioritising vulnerable and marginalised children.

The guiding principles put Salvation Army schools at the heart of the community they serve, and place importance on social, emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual development. There is an emphasis on providing a safe and secure environment supported by Corps, keeping Christian values at the heart.

The strategy for schools has six focus areas:

  • Providing quality education that leads to high achievement for all
  • Relationships and partnerships
  • Improving infrastructure and maximising resources
  • Developing a plan for sustainability 
  • Continually improving the quality of teaching staff and management systems
  • Developing minimum standards and guidelines on child safety and protection.
COVID-19 Response

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 91 per cent of students worldwide. By April 2020, close to 1.6 billion children and youth were out of school and nearly 369 million children who rely on school meals were without daily nutrition.23

Never have so many children been out of school at the same time, disrupting learning and upending lives, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised.  The global pandemic has far-reaching consequences that may jeopardise hard-won gains made in improving global education.

Schools run by The Salvation Army across the world have been adapting in the light of COVID-19 in order to ensure continuity of education for many of the 400,000 students they support. Online video conferencing technology has been utilised in many places such as in Darjeeling, India, where The Salvation Army’s special school for deaf students has been using online video conferencing in order to deliver online teaching incorporating sign language. Other countries such as South Korea are using television, radio and social media to help students maintain the momentum of learning. In areas where technology is not easily accessible, such as in Liberia, Salvation Army teachers are sending out work to students, either via post or by delivering personally to pupils’ homes.

Our Commitment

“The Salvation Army will continue to aim to provide quality access to education for all children and to focus in particular on ensuring that barriers are removed for vulnerable groups, be that because of special needs, economic hardship, faith, caste or people group, or gender. Salvation Army education seeks to develop compassionate people of integrity and character with the relevant skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve their full God-given potential in the community.”


Howard Dalziel, Director, Salvation Army Schools International