Cities at the forefront of the Education 2030 agenda

09 January 2019

How can cities ensure successful educational planning to achieve the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4)? This is the central question raised by IIEP's new research programme Local challenges, global imperatives: cities at the forefront to achieve the Education 2030 Agenda.

The project, which first launched in France in December 2018, will examine the conditions for promoting integrated and co-designed planning at the city level for broader sustainable development. Drawing lessons from the experiences of cities of varying sizes, and in countries with different income levels, the research aims to identify how to build strong and sustainable partnerships between ministries of education and cities to achieve the Education 2030 Agenda.


Cities: a crucial player for SDG 4 

The urgency of the SDGs has been widely promoted on a global scale. Yet, it is at the local level where the consequences of these efforts are most felt, and where strategies are emerging. The contextualization of these objectives is necessary to ensure community ownership, as well as their translation into concrete action plans that are tailored to local needs. Like the other SDGs, the achievement of SDG 4 on quality education will require both global and local commitments.

Education, to the extent that it brings together a range of stakeholders within a given territory, is a local issue. It concerns individuals – learners and teachers – and takes place in multiple environments: within family, the community, and the classroom.

Cities, through their local elected authorities, are playing an increasing role in the implementation of national and local education policies, in partnership with ministries of education and other local actors. Likewise, cities will also play a growing role in the achievement of the SDGs, as indeed is highlighted in SDG 11, with its call for ‘sustainable cities and communities.’ The contribution of cities to the achievement of the Education 2030 Agenda raises high expectations. Cities must ensure the provision of and access to equitable and quality education for all their inhabitants, while promoting sustainable development across their jurisdiction. 

It is crucial to examine how elected local authorities carry out educational planning and management authorities, understand the challenges commonly faced at the city level, and to identify strategies to enhance their effectiveness in implementing the 2030 Agenda. 


Research objectives


This new IIEP research programme aims to:

  • Deepen knowledge of the roles of local elected authorities in planning and managing education in their territory, in different contexts;
  • Analyze how educational planning and management is carried out by local elected bodies;
  • Examine the priority given to educational planning in a city-integrated and co-designed planning process;
  • Highlight the main challenges faced by local elected authorities when planning and managing education in cities;
  • Suggest strategies to improve cities’ effectiveness in this regard, paying specific attention to the role of the ministry of education in this process; 
  • Stimulate knowledge sharing and strategic thinking among cities and countries on how to successfully plan for SDG 4 at the city level.




The research will take place between 2018 and 2021 in several countries and cities around the world. IIEP experts will interview local actors, including those in town halls, elected officials and local administration, as well as all their partners involved in promoting education in cities. Research will first take place in several cities in France in 2019, followed by a group of cities worldwide in 2020. 

IIEP will also conduct a statistical survey in several dozen cities around the world to deepen knowledge on the implementation of their educational strategy, in different geographical contexts and with different levels of resources.


Research launches in Saint-Quentin, France  


Frédérique Macarez, Maire de Saint Quentin, et Candy Lugaz, Coordinatrice du programme Villes et Education 2030


IIEP’s research team visited the French city of Saint-Quentin in early December 2018 to conduct the first interviews. The experts met some 30 actors from the local education community, including elected officials, representatives of the culture and heritage sector, school directors and teachers, parents and students, extracurricular animators and social centres, the National Education Inspectorate, representatives from the family-oriented sector of the French social security system called the Caisse d'Allocation Familiale (CAF), an association specializing in autism, and the company in charge of school canteens.  

The interviews confirmed a central hypothesis of this research: that education is most successful when it is co-designed by a range of stakeholders. The city plays a key role, bringing together and connecting all of the actors involved in the education of a child. This is rooted in a partnership fostered by two key actors: the national education system and city officials. The foundations and effectiveness of this partnership are essential to ensure that everyone has access to quality education in their place of residence.




Next steps


IIEP’s research in this area will continue in five additional French cities in 2019 and 2020. 

For more information, please contact: 

  • Candy Lugaz, Program Coordinator:
  • Chloé Chimier, Associate Researcher: