In Europe, there are two main institutions concerned with human rights: the Council of Europe and the European Union. The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 and has 47 Member States. The European Union has 28 Member states. They work together to promote and protect human rights in Europe.

The right to education is guaranteed in their human rights instruments. Key information is provided for each instrument listed below. 

For a more complete overview of international and regional legal instruments that guarantee the right to education, see International Instruments - The Right to Education

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted in 1948, does not explicitly guarantee the right to education. However, the right to education is recognised in Article 2 of Protocol 1 to the Convention.

  • Entry into force: 3 September 1953
  • Ratifications: 47
  • Interpretation: Article 2 of Protocol 1 has been widely interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights through numerous decisions. For instance, in its interpretation, the Court has recognised limitations in the freedom of parents’educational choices.
  • Monitoring mechanism: no
  • Complaint mechanism: yes (Article 19 of the Convention)

The European Social Charter was adopted in 1961 to safeguard basic social standards. It recognises a wide array of economic, social and cultural rights including the right to education. It was revised on 3 May 1996 to expand on the rights articulated in the original Charter. According to Article 17, States should provide children and young persons with free primary and secondary education as well as encourage regular attendance at schools. Article 7, on child labour, states that persons who are still subject to compulsory education shall not be employed as this would deprive them of the full benefit of education. Article 10 guarantees the right to vocational training and Article 15 the right to education of persons with disabilities.

  • Entry into force: 1999
  • Ratifications: 43
  • Interpretation: The European Social Charter has been interpreted by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR). The Articles guaranteeing the right to education have been interpreted through numerous decisions. See summary made by the ECSR here.
  • Monitoring mechanism: yes
  • Complaint mechanism: yes

 

This treaty aims to protect and promote the historical, regional and minority languages of Europe. It was adopted, on the one hand, in order to maintain and to develop Europe’s cultural traditions and heritage, and on the other, to respect the inalienable and commonly recognised right to use a regional or minority language in private and public life. Article 8 is on the right to use a regional or minority language in education.

  • Entry into force: 1 March 1998
  • Ratifications: 25
  • Interpretation: Not specifically on the right to education
  • Monitoring mechanism: yes
  • Complaint mechanism: no

The Framework Convention is devoted to the protection of national minorities in general. Its aim is to specify the legal principles which States undertake to respect in order to ensure the protection of national minorities. Article 12 recognises the principle of equal opportunities for access to education at all levels for persons belonging to national minorities. Article 13 guarantees their right to establish private educational institutions. Article14 refers to their right to learn their minority languages and as far as possible to be taught their minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.

This Convention is concerned with the principal aspects of the legal situation of migrant workers. Article 14 protects migrant workers’ right to education and vocational training, on the same basis as national workers.

  • Entry into force: 1 May 1983
  • Ratifications: 11
  • Interpretation: no
  • Monitoring mechanism: no
  • Complaint mechanism: no

 

The Council of Europe periodically adopts recommendations to Member States on education. These recommendations are not binding on Member States however they guide States in the implementation of education policies. Below is a selection of recommendations regarding education:

 

The EU Charter assembles existing rights that were previously scattered over a range of sources including the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and other Council of Europe, United Nations and International Labour Organisation agreements.

Its provision on the right to education (Article 14) includes the right to equal access to education and vocational training; it protects the right to compulsory education and the freedom to found educational establishments. The EU Charter also protects children’s rights; Article 32 prohibits child labour and states that the minimum age of employment shall be no lower than the age of completion of compulsory education. Furthermore, the EU Charter protects academic freedom (Article 13) and includes a comprehensive non-discrimination clause (Article 21).

The EU Charter only applies to EU institutions and bodies, and EU Member States when they are acting within the scope of EU law. This means EU directives/policies/actions have to be compatible with the Charter and Member States have to respect the Charter when enacting EU law domestically.

  • Entry into force: 1 December 2009 (Enters into force with the Treaty of Lisbon)
  • Ratifications: The Treaty of Lisbon has been ratified by all 27 European Union Member States
  • Interpretation: The European Court of Justice interprets the Charter. The Charter is consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights adopted in the framework of the Council of Europe: when the Charter contains rights that stem from this Convention, their meaning and scope are the same. The European Convention on HUman Rights is the minimum standard for interpretation.
  • Monitoring mechanism: Yes
  • Complaint mechanism: The European Court of Justice