Goal 4: Promote knowledge and skills for sustainable development

Why this goal is important

Education is a primary driver of progress across all 17 SDGs.

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This Goal's focus on training and skills development as well as research and development related to sustainable development supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:

  • 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
  • 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles

Education supports social and economic mobility and enables paths out of poverty. It helps to reduce inequalities and is crucial to fostering tolerance and more peaceful societies. Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for Canadians of all ages are essential for Canada's economic and social prosperity, and for the well-being of all Canadians. This includes striving for high education attainment rates, quality early childhood development, and high levels of literacy to support developing the relevant skills for employment including well-paying jobs in the clean technology sector and participating in the clean economy.

Knowledge and education are also critical to increasing climate literacy and supporting climate action. Accordingly, climate change education is recognized as a priority in the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. Preliminary research by Environment and Climate Change Canada indicates Canadians' knowledge and awareness of climate change, environmental and nature conservation topics is increasing; as is the perception that individual actions have a positive impact on environmental change; and actions to help fight climate change, conserve nature and achieve a cleaner and safer environment are possible.

At the same time, a study on climate change curricula in Canadian secondary schools found that learning objectives tend to focus on climate change mechanisms, increases in temperature, and human impacts on climate change, with less focus on scientific consensus, the negative impacts of climate change, and potential solutions to its related problems. Meanwhile, the Canada Climate Change and Education report, released in 2019 by Learning for a Sustainable Future, showed that while the majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change, 86% indicated that they need more information.

Achieving sustainable development requires action across Canadian society. Schools, universities and other educational institutions are contributing to these efforts by taking action for sustainable development. A Canada-wide census by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network in 2019 showed that 43% of school divisions had participated in a sustainability certification program, and 25% had sustainability staff. Further, in a 2018 survey undertaken for Canada's 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 10 out of 10 participating provinces and territories reported that biodiversity had been incorporated into elementary and secondary school curricula. The report also underscores the importance of Indigenous Knowledge in contributing to the effectiveness of Canada's various biodiversity initiatives, providing information regarding the sustainable use of plants and animals, as well as the relationships and current stresses in ecosystems.

How the Government of Canada contributes

While provinces and territories are responsible for organizing, delivering and assessing all levels of education, the Government of Canada supports quality education and lifelong learning and recognizes the external benefits of a well-educated population to the prosperity and well-being of all Canadians.

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 In addition, the Government of Canada supports elementary and secondary education for First Nation students ordinarily resident on reserves. The Federal Government is continuing to work with First Nations partners to address the needs of First Nations students being educated on reserves.

The Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based Early Learning and Child Care system so that all families have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care. This includes an investment of more than $27 billion over five years as part of Budget 2021. Combined with other investments, including in Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care, up to $30 billion over five years will be provided to assist early learning and child care.

Taking into account previous investments announced since 2015, this means that as of 2025-2026, the Government of Canada will provide a minimum of $9.2 billion every year—permanently—for Early Learning and Child Care and Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care. This investment allows governments to work together towards achieving an average parent fee of $10-a-day by March 2026 for all licensed child care spaces, starting with a 50% reduction in average fees for regulated early learning and child care spaces by the end of 2022. These targets apply everywhere outside of Quebec, which already has an affordable, well-established system.

The Government of Canada contributes to sustainable development knowledge and education by funding research, including through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The government is also implementing the Roadmap for Open Science, which will make federal science publications and data more accessible and understandable to Canadians. It also aims to accelerate discovery by enabling others to build on previously validated research.

The Government of Canada will continue to provide access to data and scientific publications through initiatives such as the Open Science and Data Platform. The platform will support cumulative effects assessments for federal regulatory processes by providing access to authoritative data and information on topics related to development activities, the environment, and communities.

Actions related to sharing information and making sustainable development available to Canadians can also be found throughout the FSDS. For example, Goal 7: Increase Canadians' Access to Clean Energy, describes how the Government of Canada is sharing information related to energy. Goal 13: Take Action on Climate Change, describes how the government is sharing information related to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program plays a role in providing a suite of reliable and publicly available indicators that are also used to support targets throughout this strategy.

The Government of Canada is committed to promoting civic engagement among youth while providing opportunities to build knowledge and skills. The Canada Service Corps program funds approximately 100 organizations to deliver volunteer service opportunities for youth aged 15 to 30, and micro-grants for youth-led projects. These opportunities engage youth in building a culture of service and provide opportunities to gain essential life skills and experience while contributing to local action to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of their communities.

The government is committed to helping young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market, including in environmental and clean technology sectors. The Youth Employment and Skills Strategy supports this objective through funding programs that help young Canadians gain meaningful work experience while providing access to, among others, mentorship, mental health supports, equipment such as computers, child care services, and transportation. The Outbound Student Mobility Pilot, also branded as Global Skills Opportunity, provides students, particularly underrepresented students (Indigenous students, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families) with opportunities to study and work abroad to develop global skills, competencies, and international networks to successfully transition to the labour market.

Finally, the Government of Canada works with provinces and territories through the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada (CMEC). This council provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels. CMEC has included education for sustainable development as one of the key activity areas in Learn Canada 2020, its framework to enhance Canada's education systems, learning opportunities, and education outcomes.

Understanding and Addressing Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous knowledge forms a body of knowledge representative of a vision of the world. It is strongly connected to the identity of knowledge holders and Indigenous communities. Indigenous knowledge is multi-dimensional, dynamic, and constantly adapting, which makes it difficult to collect. Indeed, Indigenous knowledge can sometimes take the form of traditional land use data or biophysical data, but it is not exhaustive. It is therefore unrealistic to collect all the Indigenous knowledge related to a subject since it consists, for example, of practices, oral histories, observations, and perceptions that are associated with attending a particular place, for one.

In addition, beyond constituting an accumulation of atomized data, the body of knowledge of an individual, or a First Nation can constitute an arrangement of interrelated principles. These can be used within the framework of the governance of the First Nation to make decisions related to the management of the territory, for example via codes of practice which define, among other things, the methods of harvesting a species (period, method, quantity, etc.).

Indigenous knowledge is also part of a system of representation of the world that is different from the Western system, and that also carries its own coherence. Indigenous knowledge is inseparable from the context in which it is constructed or transmitted. This context is like a web of values, norms and symbols that underlie Indigenous knowledge and enable it to be interpreted and given meaning. This context does not take place in a specific, limited period of time, as Indigenous knowledge can be recent, yet very valid. Note that the impacts of climate change also accelerate the evolution process of Indigenous knowledge. The interpretation and inclusion of knowledge must therefore take the entirety of the system into account.

Lastly, Indigenous knowledge is often transmitted orally, which in academic or official reports, is not referenced nor considered as equal to Western scientific knowledge. Templates have been created to cite Indigenous Elders and knowledge holders, the former of which highlight the individual's nation and/or community.

Here are some recommendations for the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge:

  • Preserve the context surrounding Indigenous knowledge
  • Do not fragment the knowledge
  • Remember that Indigenous knowledge is varied and cannot be standardized
  • Take into account the intangible dimension of Indigenous knowledge, that is to say the system of values ​​in which it is built
  • Recognize knowledge holders as experts
  • Recognize Indigenous knowledge as an equal to scientific knowledge
  • Use more respectful and inclusive templates to cite Indigenous knowledge

Read the report “More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers” to learn more about templates for citing Indigenous knowledge.

Source: Excerpted from First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute (FNQLSDI) and First Nations members. (2022). Guide to Best Practices for the Inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge - For Federal Departments.

Stakeholder perspective: The BC Council for International Cooperation

In recent years (2017-2021), the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) organized a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Bootcamp for groups of motivated youth who were interested in becoming active SDG change makers in their own communities. The Bootcamp was a dynamic and practice-based training program that educated, mentored, and inspired its participants to promote social change and sustainable practices. With its focus on public engagement, the course helped participants foster the skills needed to effectively communicate and create dialogue to promote social change related to the SDGs. Building on this foundational work, BCCIC is committed to centering the lived experiences and expertise of grassroots, Indigenous and Global South activists and practitioners in a new intergenerational global partnership program. The program will connect youth activists (particularly belonging to marginalized and under-represented groups) from British Columbia and the Global South for collaborative learning, insights, and public engagement on sustainable global development issues.

Source: British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC)

Additional context and updates regarding this goal

Targets, indicators, milestones and contextual indicators

Targets, indicators, milestones and contextual indicators

Theme: Child care

Target: Child care (1)

By March 31 2026, regulated child care fees will be reduced to $10 a day, on average, everywhere outside of Quebec (Minister of Children, Families and Social Development)

Indicator (i)

This indicator tracks the number of provinces and territories with $10-a-day average child care costs across Canada with the exception of Quebec. The federal government is working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based early learning and child care system. As of 2022, Yukon had average daily child care costs of $10-a-day, with Nunavut on track to reaching this target by the end of 2022. By the end of 2022, this new system is expected to reduce fees for parents with children in regulated child care by 50% on average, everywhere outside of Quebec.

Short-term milestone: Reduce child care fees (1)

By the end of 2022, Canadian families will have seen their child care fees reduced by an average of 50%.

Update

By the end of 2022, Employment and Social Development Canada stated effective December 31, 2022, fees for families with children under the age of 6 at licensed child care operators in Ontario that have enrolled in the Canada-wide early learning and child care system will be reduced by an average of 50% across the province. As of December 19th, all of Canada's provinces and territories had announced reductions in child care fees.

Status: Achieved

Source: Employment and Social Development Canada, 2023

Theme: Training and skills

Target: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics graduates (2)

By December 2025, Canada's pool of science talent grows by 175,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry)

Indicator (i)

Number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates in Canada

This indicator tracks the number of post-secondary graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in Canada each year. In 2017, 124,974 Canadians graduated from these fields.

Short-term milestone: Waive student loan interest until March 2023 and enhance repayment assistance (2)

Until March 2023, make post-secondary education more affordable by waiving interest on Canada Student Loans. As of November 1, 2022, increase the repayment assistance threshold to ensure that no person making $40,000 or less will be required to make payments on their federal student loans.

Update

Effective April 1, 2023, the Government of Canada permanently eliminated the accumulation of interest on all Canada Student Loans including loans currently being repaid.

As of November 2022, with the new enhancements to the Repayment Assistance Plan, no borrower is required to repay their Canada Student Loan until they are earning at least $40,000 per year. This amount is adjusted upward based on family size, is capped at 10% of household income, and is indexed to inflation annually.

Status: Achieved

Source: Employment and Social Development Canada, 2023

Short-term milestone: Continue support for K-12 fundamental skills (2)

By the end of fiscal year 2024 to 2025, 3 million training opportunities will be offered to Canadian students, with a focus on those from underrepresented groups, from kindergarten to grade 12 and 120,000 teachers will have access to training and professional development as part of CanCode 3.0 to provide skills that will be essential in a net-zero carbon economy.

Short-term milestone: Provide training and support to youth (2)

By the end of 2023, the number of youth receiving training, employment supports, or taking part in a job placement includes 12,000 placements for Employment and Social Development Canada's Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program and 100,000 for Canada Summer Jobs.

Update

As reflected in ESDC's 2023 to 2027 Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy, targets for youth training and employment supports through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program (YESS) and Canada Summer Job (CSJ) were revised for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24. The Department is on track to meet the revised targets of at least 4,000 placements for ESDC’s YESS Program, and over 73,600 for CSJ.

Status: In process

Source: Employment and Social Development Canada, 2023

Theme: Research and knowledge sharing

Target: Average relative citation (3)

By 2025, Canada's Average Relative Citation (ARC) in natural sciences and engineering ranks within the top 10 of OECD countries, increasing from a ranking of 18 in 2020 (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry)

Indicator (i)

Canada's ranking for Average Relative Citation in natural sciences and engineering

This indicator tracks the Average Relative Citation factor, a measure of research excellence. In 2020, Canada's ranking for average relative citations was 18th in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It compares countries by how frequently their average publication in a specific field is cited. Average Relative Citation factor does not reflect the quantity of a country's research output. While Canadian publications in natural sciences and engineering have been cited more frequently since 2002, Average Relative Citation factors in some other OECD nations have increased at higher rates, thereby decreasing Canada's relative ranking.

Short-term milestone: Support research excellence (1)

By the end of 2025, reinforce Canada's competitive advantage as a destination of choice for world-class researchers by supporting the three granting councils in having additional investments in sustainable development research through their programming, including new Canada Excellence Research Chairs, New Frontiers Research Fund, and their core programming.

Short-term milestone: Roll out the Science Literacy Promotion Initiative (3)

By the end of 2023, achieve a critical mass of trained scientists able to support partners' activities as part of the Science Literacy Promotion Initiative. The initiative aims to improve understanding of the science behind environmental issues related to a changing climate and what the future climate will look like, including by connecting Environment and Climate Change Canada scientists with the Canadian public through speaking opportunities and other communications activities.

Short-term milestone: Implement an environmental marketing campaign (3)

By the end of 2025, develop and implement a multi-year marketing campaign to generate increased awareness and incite behavioural change on climate change, nature conservation, and a cleaner, safer environment.

Contextual indicator: Funding invested in research related to the environment and sustainable development (i)

Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Social Sciences and Humanities Reseach Council of Canada

Implementation strategies and departmental actions

Implementation strategies and departmental actions

Theme: Child care

Implementation strategy: Work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based system of quality child care (1)

The Government of Canada has now reached agreements with every province and territory to implement a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system. The Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments to ensure these agreements are implemented and that high-quality, affordable, flexible, accessible, culturally appropriate and inclusive child care is accessible to all.

Theme: Training and skills

Implementation strategy: Support youth skill development in environmental sectors (2)

Continue to work with partners to deliver programming for youth, such as the Science Horizons Youth Internship Program, including programs specifically for Indigenous youth, as well as youth that may face barriers to employment such as those from racialized communities or youth with disabilities, to prepare young Canadians for success in high-growth sectors such as the green economy.

Implementation strategy: Continue support for elementary and secondary education for First Nations students ordinarily living on reserves (2)

Continue to support First Nations control of First Nations education so that students living on reserves receive a high-quality and culturally relevant education, including by co-developing and implementing transformative models with First Nations, such as regional education agreements.

Implementation strategy: Support capacity in Indigenous communities (2)

Increase economic and infrastructure capacity supports, including specialized training delivered by Indigenous organizations, to ensure that all Indigenous communities are well positioned to plan and administer infrastructure, and benefit from opportunities in high-growth sectors, such as the green economy.

Theme: Research and knowledge sharing

Implementation strategy: Work with partners on sustainable development research initiatives (3)

Support environmental research through increasing capacity and leveraging Canadian and international research partnerships and fund projects that address identified research gaps in areas such as plastic pollution, climate change science and behavioural science.

Implementation strategy: Conduct research supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation (3)

Implement the Program of Applied Research on Climate Action (PARCA), a cross-departmental research initiative that combines behavioural science and robust policy analysis to improve policy, program and engagement efforts that advance climate and environmental action. A core component of this initiative is PARCA's longitudinal study, which leverages a large and nationally representative sample of Canadians to explain and promote changes over time in how Canadians think, feel, and act in response to climate change and its impacts. In parallel, in-depth studies identify key barriers to specific climate actions and rapidly test scalable solutions in randomized trials.

Implementation strategy: Promote environmental knowledge and data sharing (3)

Provide Canadians with access to information related to biodiversity, ecosystems, air quality, nature conservation, climate change action and adaptation on both land and marine spaces, as well as environmental and weather prediction services through reports, interactive platforms, communication activities, and applications such as WeatherCAN.

Implementation strategy: Provide information to help consumers make more sustainable choices (3)

Support education, information sharing, and labelling initiatives that provide individuals with the appropriate skills and competencies to become sustainable consumers and improve transparency for supply chain managers and enhance labelling for consumer products, giving Canadians greater access to information about the substances to which they are exposed. These actions will also provide consumers with greater assurance about the accuracy of environmental claims.

Implementation strategy: Support knowledge in the Arctic and Antarctic (3)

Advance Canada's knowledge of the Arctic, strengthen Canadian leadership in polar science and technology, and promote the development and distribution of knowledge of other circumpolar regions, including Antarctica.

Responsibilities and contributions of federal organizations

Responsibilities and contributions of federal organizations

1Target theme: Child care
FSDS component Title Supports Goal and/or Target Responsible organization(s)
Target By March 31 2026, regulated child care fees will be reduced to $10 a day, on average, everywhere outside of Quebec Supports the goal Minister of Children, Families and Social Development
Milestone Reduce child care fees Supports the goal and the Child Care Target Employment and Social Development Canada
Implementation Strategy Work with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based system of quality child care Supports the goal and the Child Care Target Employment and Social Development Canada
2Target theme: Training and skills in sustainable development
FSDS component Title Supports Goal and/or Target Responsible organization(s)
Target By December 2025, Canada’s pool of science talent grows by 175,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates Supports the goal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Milestone Waive student loan interest until March 2023 and enhance repayment assistance Supports the goal and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Graduates Target Employment and Social Development Canada
Milestone Continue support for K-12 fundamental skills Supports the goal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Milestone Provide training and support to youth Supports the goal Employment and Social Development Canada
Implementation strategy Support youth skill development in environmental sectors Supports the goal and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Graduates Target

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Employment and Social Development Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Implementation strategy Continue support for elementary and secondary education for First Nations students ordinarily living on reserves Supports the goal Indigenous Services Canada
Implementation strategy Support capacity in Indigenous communities Supports the goal Indigenous Services Canada
3Target theme: Research and knowledge sharing
FSDS component Title Supports Goal and/or Target Responsible organization(s)
Target By 2025, Canada's Average Relative Citation (ARC) in natural sciences and engineering ranks within the top 10 of OECD countries, increasing from a ranking of 18 in 2020 Supports the goal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Milestone Support research excellence Supports the goal and the Average Relative Citation Target

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Milestone Roll out the Science Literacy Promotion Initiative Supports the goal Environment and Climate Change Canada
Milestone Implement an environmental marketing campaign Supports the goal Environment and Climate Change Canada
Implementation Strategy Work with partners on sustainable development research initiatives Supports the goal and the Average Relative Citation Target

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Implementation Strategy Conduct research supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation Supports the goal

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Natural Resources Canada

Implementation Strategy Promote environmental knowledge and data sharing Supports the goal

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Implementation Strategy Provide information to help consumers make more sustainable choices Supports the goal Environment and Climate Change Canada
Implementation Strategy Support knowledge in the Arctic and Antarctic Supports the goal Polar Knowledge Canada

Performance measurement

iIndicators supporting the goal and contextual indicators
Indicator type Target Indicator Source Update cycle
Target By March 31 2026, regulated child care fees will be reduced to $10 a day, on average, everywhere outside of Quebec Number of provinces and territories with $10-a-day average child care costs Employment and Social Development Canada Occasional
Target By December 2025, Canada’s pool of science talent grows by 175,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates Number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates in Canada Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Annual
Target By 2025, Canada's Average Relative Citation (ARC) in natural sciences and engineering ranks within the top 10 of OECD countries, increasing from a ranking of 18 in 2020 Canada's ranking for Average Relative Citation in natural sciences and engineering Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Annual
Contextual Funding invested in research related to the environment and sustainable development

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Annual

For more detailed information see Strengthening transparency and accountability.

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