The formulation of the SDG education targets was more inclusive than the processes linked with the MDGs. Key constituencies making representations through the Open Working Group and other consultative processes succeeded in formulating targets that stressed inclusion, quality and equality in all phases of education. However, the development of the global indicators for SDG4, has resulted in metrics that miss many of the values of the targets, most notably with regard to quality and free education and substantive, not simply distributive, meanings of equality. The article analyses why some of these slippages took place, and what potential there may be to mobilise for metrics that better depict the key tenets of the education goal and targets. The analysis thus considers ways forward for exploring measurement of the many meanings of quality and equalities in education, reflecting on numbers as instruments that impose power and hierarchy, and the possibility of using reflections on numbers and indicators for critical dialogue and an enhancement of participation, accountability, and work to change injustices in education.