Aligning higher education with the United Nations SDGs – India’s Commitment to Achieving Sustainable Development Goals through National Education Policy 2020 | 7 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the role of NEP 2020, Universities, etc in accelerating efforts to achieve SDGs by 2030.


  • GS2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals with 169 targets that all 193 UN member states have agreed to try to achieve by 2030.
  • The SDGs aim to end poverty and other socio-economic and environmental problems, improve the standard of life and education, reduce inequality, and harness economic growth.
  • However, the SDGs Report 2023 flagged slow progress and painted a grim picture due to the prolonged effects of COVID-19, impacts of the climate crisis, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and a weak global economy.
  • India, despite having managed the crises of the global economy and relatively succeeded in overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic, has suffered a setback in achieving these goals.


  • India's Commitment to SDGs:
    • Recent actions and policies indicate that India is committed towards realizing SDGs. Among them, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 should be given credit to a great extent.
    • NEP 2020 has been prepared in tune with most of the SDGs. India, with a long-standing history of equitable and inclusive education, has accelerated efforts to ensure the achievement of SDGs through various reforms.
  • SDG4 and NEP 2020:
    • SDG4 pertains to access to quality education, which is a prerequisite for the achievement of other goals.
    • NEP 2020 calls for changes at all levels of education, but priority should be accorded to higher education as it accelerates social mobility, empowers people through creativity and critical thinking, and grants them employment skills.
    • According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), people with a higher education degree are more employable and earn an average of 54% more than those who only have completed senior secondary education.
    • A university-inclusive education, thus, better protects people against poverty (SDG1), prevents them from hunger (SDG2), supports them for good health and well-being (SDG3), promotes gender equality (SDG5), provides them decent work, which in turn drives economic growth (SDG 8), and reduces inequalities (SDG10).
  • Role of Universities in Achieving SDGs:
    • Universities should strengthen the research-teaching nexus in university education. That way, students will become direct benefactors of the knowledge generated from research.
    • Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary systems of education produce multitalented people who can pursue research and find innovative solutions to global challenges such as affordable and clean energy (SDG7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), climate change and global warming (SDG13), as well as studying their impact on an economy and the earth.
    • Sustainable development is possible only if we radically change the way we produce and consume (SDG12).
    • Innovative solutions and start-ups (SDG 9) must be developed in collaboration with private companies. Introducing Value-Based Education (VBE) will help citizens become responsible towards self, society, and the planet and help our nation achieve “Life on Land” (SDG15).

Way Forward:

  • To accelerate the progress towards achieving the 2030 agenda, stakeholders of higher education should be educated and oriented so that none of their activities leave any SDG behind.
  • The 56,205 higher educational institutions and universities in India should work together. Universities should come out reinvigorated and play a part in the education, innovation, culture, and civic life of their local communities.
  • It is high time that universities adopted sustainability as a mantra and incorporated SDGs into their institutional strategies, both in daily administration and in teaching and research.
  • Every citizen must feel that the universities contribute directly to their well-being and nation-building.

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