In August 2015, the UN Inter-Governmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) process came to fruition with consensus on the outcome document, titled ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Global Action’. Framed as 17 SDG goals with 169 outcome-based targets, the framework is embraced by 190+ countries including Pakistan. The defining principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a shared promise by every country to work together to secure the rights and well-being of everyone on a healthy, thriving planet. Year 2023 marks halfway to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as the eighth year is about to be completed of the SDGs initiative. In this regard, the United Nations has released an SDG special progress report gauging overall progress in the implementation of the SDG agenda. Consequently, a sobering reality emerges that the world is falling short of meeting most of its Goals by 2030. While certain areas have witnessed progress, there remains a concerning proportion of targets that are either progressing too slowly or regressing. Progress on more than 50 per cent of targets of the SDGs is weak and insufficient; on 30 percent, it has stalled or gone into reverse. These include key targets on poverty, hunger and climate. While the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over, the world is still reeling from its impacts. The recovery has been slow, uneven and incomplete. The pandemic has created significant reversals in global health outcomes. Childhood vaccinations have experienced the largest decline in three decades. COVID-19 has also had devastating impacts on education, causing learning losses in four out of five of the 104 countries studied. Its economic after-effects are equally severe. The pandemic interrupted three decades of steady progress of poverty reduction with the number of people living in extreme poverty increasing for the first time in a generation. It has also caused the largest rise in between-country inequality in three decades. Progress on more than 50 per cent of targets of the SDGs is weak and insufficient. Although the special report covers all seventeen goals envisaged for 2030 targets this article series focuses on SDG-4 that deals with the education sector. Original targets set for education state that by 2030, all girls and boys should complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education. And 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. By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university and have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, and global citizenship. Also build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all and by 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries. However, the special report portrays a dismal scenario for education as improvement towards quality education was already slower than required before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on education and it has caused learning losses in four out of five of the 104 countries under consideration. Going by this trend, it is projected that only one in six countries will achieve the universal secondary school completion target by 2030, an estimated 84 million children and young people will still be out of school, and approximately 300 million students will lack the basic numeracy and literacy skills necessary for success in life if necessary initiatives are not taken. To achieve national Goal 04 benchmarks, which are reduced in ambition compared with the original Goal 4 targets, 79 low- and lower-middle-income countries still face an average annual financing gap of $97 billion. Thus forth, education financing must become a national investment priority. For this, measures such as making education free and compulsory, increasing the number of teachers, improving basic school infrastructure and embracing digital transformation are essential. On the other hand, primary and secondary school completion has shown an increasing trend but its pace is far too slow and uneven. Between 2015 and 2021, worldwide primary school completion increased from 85 to 87 per cent, lower secondary completion rose from 74 to 77 per cent and upper secondary completion grew from 53 to 58 per cent. However, the pace of improvement was significantly slower than in the 2000-2015 periods. Most regions have primary completion rates of nearly 90 per cent or higher, except sub-Saharan Africa, where less than two-thirds of children complete primary school. In impoverished regions, poor learning outcomes lead to high drop-out rates and delayed completion. In sub-Saharan Africa, although 80 per cent of primary-aged children are enrolled in school, only 62 per cent graduate on time. Economic burdens, like expenses for books and uniforms, plus opportunity costs, also contribute to incomplete education. Despite the aspiration of universal secondary school completion, only one in six countries aims to achieve this goal by 2030 based on their national targets. Even if these targets are met, an estimated 84 million children and young people will still be out of school by 2030. Another aspect apart from school completion is comprehension and reading level threshold, in this regard, data show disappointing progress on improving primary school reading levels. In 2015, approximately 60 per cent of students demonstrated minimum proficiency in reading across primary and lower secondary schools. However, achieving universal minimum learning proficiency by 2030 requires an average annual improvement of around 2.7 percentage points. Despite positive gains between 2000 and 2019, progress was minimal and significantly slower than required. Examining reading levels at the end of primary school, trend data covering 34 per cent of the world’s children reveal an annual improvement of 0.39 percentage points, less than one-seventh of what’s needed. (To be continued) The writer is a certified school manager and writes on gender, education & social issues. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.