Sustainable Development Goals were developed by the United Nations to produce a set of universal goals that would help combat the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing the world. Pakistan showed commitment and adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as early as 2016 and started mainstreaming SDGs into the main policymaking to join the league of upper middle-class countries. The seven pillars of Vision-2025 are fully aligned with the SDGs, providing a comprehensive long-term strategy for achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development. However, Pakistan along with the world has experienced numerous socio-economic changes, especially during 2019 -2020 with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government’s presentation of the official voluntary national review (VNR) at the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York on July 17, 2022, shows progress on the 2030 Agenda. The VNR preparation process was led by the federal government. The Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives (MoPD&SI), steered the whole process of the VNR preparation. There are some reservations and concerns regarding the priority setting of critical SDGs. Talking about SDGs, the Government of Pakistan selected some targets for each SDG to focus on a priority basis but if we track the performance on those targets and indicators, Pakistan is lagging in achieving those targets and the overall performance is much lower than required.

Over 22 million children are out of school, and it needs holistic planning, equitable financing, and stronger political will to enhance educational outcomes by prioritising the millions left behind. At least 4-6 percent of GDP or 20-25 percent of public expenditure must be ensured to protect people’s fundamental right to education, as per Article 25A. In the report, The Government of Pakistan has shown its commitment to achieving SDG-4 which stipulates equitable education, removal of discrimination, provision and up-gradation of infrastructure, skill development for sustainable progress, universal literacy, numeracy, and enhancement of the professional capacity of teachers.

Light has been thrown on various aspects such as the provision of missing facilities, improvement of the physical infrastructure, establishment of IT/Science labs, up-gradation of girls’ and boys’ primary schools to the middle, high and secondary levels, construction of new schools and colleges, provision of scholarships, Early Childhood Education (ECE) and strengthening of Provincial Institutes of Teacher Education (PITE). The report also mentioned budget aspects that the total expenditure on education as a share of GDP for Pakistan stood at on average 1.96 percent. More attention needed to be paid to this factor as this is a prerequisite to quality education and the provision of facilities. In Pakistan, there is no adequate allocation of budget for the education sector.

There is a strong need to address the widening disparities in the education scenario. Previous government initiated the “Single National Curriculum” to minimise disparity in the country’s education system but it could not bring the required results due to lack of implementation as its planning structure had various loopholes. Over 22 million children are out of school and this needs more focus as to what are the factors contributing to school dropouts, especially for girls and what steps were taken by the government to address those particular issues. It was heartening to find out the overall education sector performance based on key indicators which showed significant improvement in Pakistan. The total number of enrolments increased by 4.9 percent in 2019-20 on a year-on-year basis.

Gender equality requires multi-sectoral gender-sensitive planning based on comprehensive vulnerability assessment for achieving gender-responsive social protection, health and education outcomes, protection from violence and disasters, and protection of the right to inheritance, employability and political participation. Quality of Education is a very important factor to determine the future of these children and the report needed to focus more on the parameters of quality of education and facilities provided in the schools. Training of Teachers plays a huge role in setting high-quality education standards and this aspect needed more focus in the report. Civil society organisations are a key actor in the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and disaster/natural disasters situations such as floods, earthquakes etc, For the development of the country by augmenting the effective role of CSOs, it is important to ensure their meaningful participation and inclusion at agenda-setting and policymaking level.