SDG 4 Quality education

Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – focuses on education as a fundamental human right that is necessary for the achievement of all the SDGs.1 Education supports the achievement of gender equality by empowering women and is crucial to creating environmental resilience in an inclusive society.2 SDG 4 has 7 general targets, 3 implementation targets and 11 indicators.3

The focus of this goal relies on skills acquisition and capacity building to acquire the knowledge that Cambodia itself and Cambodian citizens will need. Education can enable innovation and increased productivity levels and ultimately provide benefits such as better economic conditions.4

Companies can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs too by joining with the government and civil society to support the quality of education in their area.5

Transition from the MDG targets to SDG 4 in Cambodia

The earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which ran from 2002 to 2015, were strongly supported by Cambodia, which developed its own nine Cambodian Millenium Development Goals (CMDGs) in 2003.6 One of those was Cambodian MDG 2 – Achieve universal primary education. As the table indicates, Cambodia made significant progress over the period.

Performance of CMDG 2 – Achieve universal primary education7

Target indicators Achievements





(2A) Achieve 100% net enrolment rate at primary level
Literacy rate for population aged 15-24 years old from 2004 to 2013% 80.488.893.094.5
(2B) Achieve 100 % completion rate at primary level
Net enrolment rate at primary level%






(2C) Achieve universal literacy in the population aged 15-25 years
Gross enrolment rate – lower secondary% 45.858.155.174
Primary completion rate%



Lower secondary completion rate% 19.748.740.3100
(2D) Achieve gender parity at primary school level
Gender radio at the primary school levelRatio0.950.970.9111
Gender ratio at secondary levelRatio0.680.790.971.11

CMDG 3 – Promote gender equality and empowering women – also had a significant educational component. Again, Cambodia made giant strides forward.

Performance of CMDG 3 – Promoting gender equality and empowering women8

(3A) Achieve gender equality in education and literacy
NoIndicators Achievements





1Female/male ratio upper secondary education%48 (2001)6082100100
2Female/male ratio in tertiary education%38 (2001)45.686.78585
3Ratio literate females/males 15–24 years%87 (1998)9098.3100100
4Ratio literate females/males 25–44 years%78 (1998)8099100100

Other measures support the picture of educational improvements during the years of the MDGs. Cambodia’s Human Development Indices trends9 indicate that the mean years of schooling increased by 2 years between 1990 and 2017– although the expected years of schooling increased even more: 

 Expected years of schoolingMean years of schooling

These figures mask a gender gap, especially for mean years of schooling, which for 2017, were 5.6 for males but only 3.8 for females.10

UNDP figures indicate another big difference when the whole of society is considered. While 28% of the male population has at least some secondary education, the figure for women is barely more than half of that, at 15%.11

Underpinning all work to improve education in Cambodia is the Constitution.12 Article 65 covers citizens’ rights to quality education at all levels, Article 66 covers the state’s responsibility to establish a comprehensive and standardized educational system nationwide with (in Article 67) modern teaching methods. Article 68 requires the state to provide free primary and secondary education to all citizens in public schools. Citizens are entitled to education for at least 9 years.

To help achieve the constitutional requirements and the CMDGs, key policy initiatives were the Education Strategic Plan (ESP), the Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) and the Education for All (EFA) plan.13

The legal framework to provide quality standardized education is shaped by the following action plans and policies:14

Localization of SDG 4 in Cambodia

Of the 10 global targets for quality education, Cambodia picked up 7, making it one of the goals most comprehensively adopted in the Cambodian SDGs (CSDGs). It has gone even further with the indicators – Cambodia has identified 18, where there are only 11 indicators in the global framework for SDG 4.

The CSDGs were announced at the end of 2018.15 The general targets for CSDG 4 are, by 2030:

Target 1 – to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

Target 2 – to 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

Target 3 – to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

Target 5 – to 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

Target 6 – ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.

Cambodia has clearly picked up unfinished business from the CMDGs around, for example, primary school completion rates, but also added new goals around access to early childhood education and tertiary education.

Means of implementation for SDG 4 in Cambodia

The two implementation goals Cambodia has picked up are:

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

4c – substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in Cambodia.

Cambodia tends not to adopt targets which it perceives are not within its control, so the SDG means of implementation target of expanding the number of scholarships available to residents of least-developed countries is not included in the CSDGs.

In cooperation with government agencies, UNESCO, NGOs and other development stakeholders, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) joined forces to develop several initiatives in education. They include improving the quality of education, the introduction of better salaries and work conditions for teachers, accomplishing reforms on vocational training programs and the evaluation system.16

Initiatives such as “BEEP”, an ICT-based program for basic education equivalency, is an example of the results of MoEYS’s cooperation with other entities.

For the improvement of education facilities,  MoEYS will work in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD).17

The Cambodian Industrial Development Policy acknowledges the importance of the development of technical knowledge and skills in the workforce.18

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, published in April 2014 a policy on Higher Education vision 2030, envisioning and connecting targets for the implementation of SDG 4.19

Monitoring and evaluation of SDG 4 in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the education data management and structure is under the Department of Non-Formal Education of MoEYS (NFE-MIS), the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (TVET-MIS) and the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) of the Ministry of Planning (MoP).20 

The agency responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of all CSDG 4 targets and indicators will be MoEYS. In some cases, MoEYS will cooperate with other government agencies.21

Target 4.3 (gender balance of tertiary education enrolments), will be monitored by MoEYS and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art (MCFA).

In the case of target 4.a (building and upgrading education facilities), MoEYS and the Ministry for Rural Development (MRD) will both be involved.22

Related Topics


  1. 1. Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform 2018. “SDG 4”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  2. 2. SDG Compass 2015. “SDG 4”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  3. 3. Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform 2018. op. cit.
  4. 4. SDG Compass 2015. op. cit.
  5. 5. Ibid
  6. 6. Royal Government of Cambodia 2018. “Cambodian Sustainable Development Goals (CSDGs) Framework (2016-­2030)“. Accessed 30 March 2019.
  7. 7. Ibid
  8. 8. Ibid
  9. 9. UNPD 2018. “Human Development Indices and Indicators: 2018 Statistical Update Cambodia”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  10. 10. Ibid
  11. 11. Ibid
  12. 12. “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia 1993“. Accessed 29 March 2019.
  13. 13. Royal Government of Cambodia. “Cambodia Millennium Development Goals – CRDB/CDC”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  14. 14. World Vision 2017. “EDUCATION – Policy Brief Cambodia”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  15. 15. Royal Government of Cambodia 2018. op. cit.
  16. 16. The Phnom Penh Post 2017. “Literacy target of a Sustainable Development Goal”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  17. 17. Kingdom of Cambodia 2018. op. cit.
  18. 18. Royal Government of Cambodia 2015. “Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-20170”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  19. 19. Kingdom of Cambodia Nation Religion King 2014. “Policy on Higher Education Youth and Sport”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  20. 20. Pitin 2017. “Monitoring SDG4-Education 2030 in Cambodia”. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  21. 21. Kingdom of Cambodia 2018. op. cit.
  22. 22. Ibid
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