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How is lifelong learning linked with the Sustainable Development Goals?


Lifelong learning plays a crucial role in supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 to address various social, economic, and environmental challenges by 2030. Lifelong learning is explicitly recognized in the 4th goal (SDG 4) as “Quality Education,” which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Moreover, lifelong learning is a key theme in several other SDGs, and as such can be seen as a transversal action for achieving these goals:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty: Lifelong learning can help break the cycle of poverty by equipping individuals with essential skills and knowledge to improve their employability and income-earning potential.
  • SDG 4: Quality Education: SDG 4 explicitly highlights the importance of lifelong learning opportunities for all. Lifelong learning goes beyond traditional formal education and encompasses a continuous process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and competencies throughout one’s life.
  • SDG 5: Gender Equality: Lifelong learning can help bridge the gender gap in education and workforce participation. By providing equal opportunities for education and skills development, it empowers women and girls to participate more actively in economic and social activities.
  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Lifelong learning is essential for workforce development and maintaining a skilled and adaptable workforce.
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequality: Lifelong learning promotes social inclusion and reduces inequalities by offering educational opportunities to marginalized and disadvantaged groups, including people with disabilities, refugees, and displaced populations.
  • SDG 13: Climate Action: Lifelong learning can enhance climate literacy and empower individuals to take climate action. By fostering an understanding of climate change, renewable energy, and sustainable practices, it contributes to building a more sustainable future.

EARLALL’s Members’ projects, initiatives and working groups work to address these SDGs, with a lifelong learning perspective in mind. Particularly under the issue of SDG 5: Gender Equality, EARLALL has recently launched the Gender Equality Task Force in Lifelong Learning, along with EAEA and EfVET. Moreover, in relation to SDG10: Reduced Inequality, the NEETs For NEETs is working to co-create social sustainability for our societies’ most vulnerable populations. Finally, the SMALEI – Sustainability Matrix for Adult Education Institutions – project is seeking to improve sustainability awareness at a societal and institutional level among adult education providers.

Find out more about how the SDGs and lifelong learning are linked in the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s Handbook ‘Making Lifelong Learning a Reality’ (2022).