This article identifies different types of State's failures to realise the right to education, which are violations of the right to education.

This article is based on a year-long study of the right to education for child refugees and migrants from other African countries who find themselves in South Africa. It identifies a number of factors that inhibit children’s participation in education and shows how the right to education can be assessed and monitored using indicators.

Co-operation between UNESCO’s Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (CR) and The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on the objectives for monitoring and promoting the Right to Education. 

Like all human rights, the right to education imposes three levels of obligations on States parties: the obligations to respect, protect and fulfi ll. In turn, the obligation to fulfi ll incorporates both an obligation to facilitate and an obligation to provide. It is incumbent upon States to incorporate into domestic legal order their obligations under conventions and treaties established by the United Nations and UNESCO and to give effect to these in national policies and programmes. In order to achieve Education For All, it is imperative to intensify UNESCO’s normative action and monitor more effectively the right to education.

This Concept Paper outlines the broader issues which have been addressed in order to establish a set of right to education indicators based on the 4-A framework as developed by Katarina Tomaševski, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education. It explains the choices made when developing these indicators and discusses human rights indicators with a focus on the right to education.
Key resource

RTE's background paper for the Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8: Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments.

The purpose of the paper is to show how a human rights-based approach offers insights and practical solutions to address the accountability deficits found in both education policy decision-making and implementation, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Specifically, the paper argues that a human rights-based approach to accountability can bolster public policy accountability by defining the responsibilities of authorities, ensuring they are answerable for actions regarding those responsibilities, and how they can be subject to forms of enforceable sanctions or remedial action for failures to carry out those responsibilities.

As the national government is the primary duty bearer for the right to education it is important for any report on accountability to start with the responsibilities of government. The paper provides an overview of the right to education legal framework to which States have legally committed, as well existing international and regional accountability mechanisms.

The paper then explores the connections between the 2030 Agenda, the Incheon Declaration, and human rights law. The Incheon Declaration affirms, ‘the vision and political will reflected in numerous international and regional human rights treaties that stipulate the right to education and its interrelation with other human rights” (para. 2). In the Declaration education is framed as both a “public good” and a “fundamental human right” (para. 5). However, whether a rights-based approached is consistent or present in the operationalisation of SDG4 has not been clearly debated. Part of this challenge is the diluted and often, overly simplistic notion of what the right to education entails. The paper seeks to better understand the similarities and differences of these two large global frames for education and includes a matrix that links the normative content of each framework. This matrix shows that the content of each is largely aligned, even if the processes are not. The paper argues that by recasting the content of SDG4 as part of the right to education, the legal obligations owed to that content can be invoked. This renders various elements of SDG4, if the state in question has legally committed to the right to education and incorporated the right to education in their domestic legal orders, amenable to adjudication by competent mechanisms, offering the possibility of legal accountability through legal enforcement.

The second half of the paper explores the prevalence of the right to education in national laws and the conditions necessary for the right to education to be successfully adjudicated at the national level. It provides an overview of how countries have incorporated the right to education in their domestic legal orders, as well as a list of countries where the right to education is justiciable. This is complemented by a series of case studies that draw out the requirements for successful adjudication at the national level.

At the national level the incorporation and implementation of the right to education, as required by international treaties, requires at least three stages. Firstly, countries must translate their international legal commitment into concrete action to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to education. This includes the incorporation of the right to education into the domestic legal order, through the adoption of education laws and policies. Secondly, countries must secure the right to education as a justiciable right. Lastly, the justiciable right to education must be able to be adjudicated fairly through the judicial system. Whilst the first stage is completed at a near universal level by countries, the final two stages, essential for the fulfilment of the right to education, are achieved by significantly fewer countries. Even when justiciability is present, various barriers may be present that hinder the adjudication of the right to education. Understanding how countries move from incorporation to application and implementation is essential to understanding whether the right to education is truly realised in a country. Our analysis shows that legal enforcement, through mechanisms competent to hold duty-bearers legally accountable, has a positive impact on the realisation of the right to education. Furthermore, little is known about how the political, social, and cultural context of a country limits or enables the adjudication of the right to education. This paper examines court cases from countries around the world to identify the conditions that enable the right to education to be realised through adjudication.

Key resource

This paper is the Right to Education Initiative’s contribution to the on-going discussions to refine the formulation of the post-2015 education goal and targets and to identify related indicators to measure progress towards them. This paper argues that there is a need to introduce a human rights perspective to the post-2015 agenda and furthermore that right to education indicators can give a fuller account of the progress made by States towards achieving the post-2015 goals. Before proposing specific indicators to measure the post-2015 education goal and targets (VI), the paper underlines the importance of linking the post-2015 education agenda to the right to education (II), and demonstrates how the post-2015 education goal and targets are linked to the content of the right to education (III) and extant State obligations (IV). This paper then reflects on the added value and limitations of applying right to education indicators (V).

This background paper is an introduction to the framework used by the Right to Education Initiative to develop rights-based indicators for education. It has been developed for a consultative workshop on indicators for the right to education held in 2010 and offers a series of starting points for discussion.