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Alam, G.M.; Forhad, M.A.R. Sustainable Development Goals in Education. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 18 June 2024).
Alam GM, Forhad MAR. Sustainable Development Goals in Education. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 18, 2024.
Alam, Gazi Mahabubul, Md. Abdur Rahman Forhad. "Sustainable Development Goals in Education" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 18, 2024).
Alam, G.M., & Forhad, M.A.R. (2023, July 19). Sustainable Development Goals in Education. In Encyclopedia.
Alam, Gazi Mahabubul and Md. Abdur Rahman Forhad. "Sustainable Development Goals in Education." Encyclopedia. Web. 19 July, 2023.
Sustainable Development Goals in Education

Following the fourth target of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), education disparity is one of the graver concerns delaying substantial economic development, especially in emerging market-based nations. Despite numerous efforts to address this disparity, it has been a long-standing concern for many communities. 

smartphone technology education disparity sustainable education

1. Introduction

Technology has become one of the most influential drivers of economic growth and development [1][2][3]. In particular, the internet has accelerated the spread of knowledge and how information is transmitted. In addition, it allows networking that leads to knowledge spillovers between individuals, firms, industries, regions, and countries [4], thus contributing to economic growth or expansion [5]. From a theoretical perspective, the diffusion theory of Rogers [6] highlights the role played by education innovation and its dissemination. However, empirical evidence has also confirmed that the effects of technology on economic growth depend on how these technologies and skills are deployed. In particular, more educated individuals use computers and access the internet more frequently [7], leading to economic prosperity [8].
In this technology-driven era, knowledge and information transmission can help implement and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations (UN) also emphasizes societies where everyone can learn and communicate through access to ICTs. On the other hand, sustainable learning refers to educational approaches that contribute to a healthy, ever-changing learning environment by generating and sharing knowledge in a community. Technology access offers opportunities to explore knowledge and remove the glaring disparities in academic attainment, ultimately ensuring sustainable and viable education where all people benefit.

2. Concept of Development and SDGs

The relevant development criteria and schemata have evolved from historical and social practices [9]. The interpretation of social events is guided and constrained by prevailing rationales and assumptions that reflect the dominant ideology and how it is articulated in politics, economics, and social discourse [10]. For instance, Alam et al. [11] noted that natural resources were considered the single source that triggers development. They further argued that to exploit such an ideology, innovation of an “abstract concept”, namely money, was revolutionized, gradually coming to dominate the concept of economic development when profits became a goal in itself [12]. As time passed, the concept of natural resources as a primary or single source for development became obsolete since human resources are now regarded as a fundamental part of economic development. Hence, Vom Hau et al. [13] and Alam et al. [14] argued that human resources could transform both useable and non-useable natural resources for the benefit of humanity, which is what development should be about. However, Cozier [15] and Lozano et al. [16] claimed that development simply became a core aspect of international business and was at the mercy of modernization and commodification.
Alam [17] argued that the concept of development had been experimented with in many paradigm transformations and could contradict the former explanation with the latter. Contemporary development, as it is now practiced, may threaten future definitions [18]. Economic development (i.e., capitalism) was considered the only form of progress for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as was modernization. Consequently, significant amounts of human resources were invested in ensuring that capitalist methods of production and ownership were maintained, subsequently leading to commodification [14].
It was later realized that such activities would have damaged our environment and natural sustainability if they went ahead unchallenged [11]. Moreover, this led to a belief in a sustainability crisis consciousness, where the new paradigm is branded sustainable development. To respond to this transition, the United Nations (UN) reworked the targets of the developmental agenda identified as SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) in 2015. Since then, the concept of sustainable development has been considered an emerging and popular theme worldwide.

3. SDGs: Sustainable Education

While the key focus of the SDGs is to ensure environmental and natural sustainability with the collective efforts made to realize the seventeen targets, each target has its own distinct purpose [19]. These seventeen targets function collectively to ensure sustainable development [20][21]. Hence, sustainable education is essential to targeting the fourth SDG, which is entirely different from sustainability in education [22]. However, scholars could disagree on how to define ‘sustainability in education’ and ‘sustainable education’, as they may be entirely or subtly different.
Sustainability in education refers to agendas, programs, studies, and institutional infrastructure development connected to the environment and nature [23][24]. On the other hand, sustainable education refers to those developmental agendas that confirm that education can play a substantial role in economic and social progress and focus on a human needs perspective [25][26]. Therefore, the true meaning of sustainable education goes beyond the desired quality of education; instead, it is more of a comprehensive tool. Furthermore, sustainable education includes programs, agendas, and institutional settings that work in the interest of national development and in an unbiased way [17].

4. Education Disparity and Sustainable Education: The Era of Technologization

The disparity in education has a long history [27][28]. Many attempts have been made to address such disparities in education, yet it remains a core challenge for sustainable development in education. Despite adopting the ratification named “Convention against Discrimination in Education 1960” [17] for several reasons, such efforts were not successful for many developing nations. One of the common constraints based on several nations’ experiences suggests that if a nation experiences disparity in every aspect of its society, politics, economy, community, etc., then removing education disparity is impossible [29]. For this reason, the SDGs concentrate on addressing education disparity and use a combined process to remove it from the social setting [17]. Subsequently, several SDG targets, namely one, two, five, eight, and ten, contribute to a collective and collaborative effort to remove the education disparity evident in the fourth SDG.
Although addressing education disparity remains the top priority, it is still one of the most severe concerns affecting the future of sustainable development in education [30]. While disparity is a problem, technology has become essential to our daily lives in the 21st century. Education, a social and economic reform instrument, cannot live in isolation from technology [31]. Binks et al. [32] argued that technology had become an inevitable component of the preparation of courses and curricula, extending to the delivery of curricula and grading/marking/assessments. Hence, not only is equal access to education a remedy for education disparity, but substantial equal access to technology has become one of the foremost prerequisites for dismantling education discrimination [33][34]. Therefore, the role of technological intervention in education disparity is important to investigate in the era of technologization and sustainable development.


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