RAG Ratings for the SDGs

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

In an idle moment (and with inadequate data) I have been assessing the UK's performance against the SDG targets – doing this for UKSSD.

I used RAG ratings which are "suggestion of performance" against the goal.  These are:

  • Red - off target, poor progress, not addressed in existing policies
  • Amber - some progress or aspect of the targets met
  • Green - global or proposed UK target has been met, exceeded or is near to being met

In what follows, I've used a Now => 2030 format.  The first RAG is the now assessment and the second one shows the trend.

Here you go:

Target 4.1 – By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

Amber => Green

  • I don’t know about international standards (eg OECD), but surely the education provided is of ‘quality’ for a significant proportion of UK students
  • For that same majority, the learning outcomes are reasonably relevant and effective for today
  • That said, given that the indicator is only concerned with reading and maths, these outcomes must be as effective tomorrow as they are today.
  • The challenge for the UK is the ‘all’ in the target where the socially-deprived tail is too long and persistent despite efforts to fix the problem


Target 4.2 – By 2030, 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

Amber => Green

  • I don’t know about international standards here but many UK children do have access to ‘quality’ provision at this stage.
  • But too many do not and the ones that don’t are the ones who most need it.
  • Again, the challenge for the UK is the ‘all’ in the target where the socially-deprived tail is long and persistent despite efforts to fix the problem.


Target 4.3 – By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

Amber => Green

  • The UK has more than our share of good universities and a large number of young people enrol and graduate.  We are good at this
  • There are more female students in HE than male.
  • The drop-out rate is low by international standards and employers rate the quality of graduates.
  • There is not, however, equal access as HE provision is rationed in Scotland (and probably in Wales as well) because tuition is fully tax-payer funded.
  • One outcome of this is that the proportion of Scottish students from socially-deprived backgrounds going to HE is much lower than it is in England.  That said, there is still room for improvement on this measure in all parts of the UK.
  • Further, in Scotland it’s the case that the vocational education sector has been starved of tax-payer funding because it’s been diverted to HE institutions that don’t have access to student fees.
  • I note, however, that this target is not really about universities.


Target 4.4 – By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

Amber => Green

  • The target here is a loose one “substantially increase …”.  Given how poor the provision is now, this should not be a problem.


Target 4.5 – By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations

Amber => Green

  • This target is a mixed bag and “multidimentional” is a kind word.
  • “Eliminate” sets a high standard.
  • The biggest gender disparity has to be working-class ‘white’ boys, doing poorly all through the system.  I was one such, once.
  • As to the vulnerable, this is at least an issue we take seriously.


Target 4.6 – By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy


  • OECD data would suggest that the UK is good at this.
  • NB, not all parts of the UK now take all the relevant international tests (eg PIRLS).  Northern Ireland and England take the full complement, I think.


Target 4.7 –By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Amber => Green

  • “multidimentional” is a wholly inadequate description for this nonsense.  “Grab bag” is better.
  • Given that no one has any idea what the "knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development” are, it seems hard to say anything sensible.  All this makes me want to curl up in a ball and rock quietly from side to side until it all goes away.
  • Further, I don’t accept that, whatever the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development are, they can be in any way dependent on the conceptual incoherence inherent within ESD.
  • This means that I don’t see any need to differentiate between the bits of the UK in coming to a judgement, especially as this would mean discounting the strength of the contribution of, say, the global learning programme in England.


Target 4.a. – Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all


  • Surely we already do this apart from the benighted few in proxy-madrassas, ultra-orthodox outposts and fundamentalist, Creationist CoE covens – and Ofsted (etc) have them in view.


Target 4.b. – By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries

Amber => Green

  • We can and should do more of this.


Target 4.c. – By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states

Amber => Green

  • As 4b



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