Education and the sustainable development agenda

Policy Brief #19, September 2018. With the launch of the global Sustainable Development Goals agenda in 2015 comes an opportunity to critically reflect on the role of education in, through, and for sustainable development.

Policy Brief #19, cover

Policy Brief #19, cover

In this policy brief, IIASA researchers argue that education should be pursued as both an end and a powerful means of development – an argument that is strengthened rather than undermined if the many instrumental benefits that follow from improved education and how they seem to arise are taken seriously.

According to the researchers, general education has a positive role to play in achieving the environmental goals of sustainable development, which supports the claim that investing in good education is key to achieving sustainable development.

Educational equality promotes income growth and reduces income inequality, which in turn leads to more cohesive, stable, and happy societies. It can also increase political knowledge, and promote civic culture and participation in democratic politics.

In short, education is worth investing in, not because it is the elusive ‘silver bullet’ to end all sustainable development problems, but because processes of teaching and learning are a natural and defining characteristic of society. The improvement of education on its own terms is therefore in everyone’s interest.


IIASA Policy Briefs present the latest research for policymakers from IIASA - an international, interdisciplinary research institute with National Member Organizations (NMOs) in countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The views expressed herein are those of the researchers and not necessarily those of IIASA or its NMOs.


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Last edited: 11 September 2018

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Stephanie Bengtsson

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World Population

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