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.

Dans ce rapport, la Rapporteuse spéciale sur le droit à l'éducation des Nations unies, Koumba Boly Barry, examine la mise en œuvre du droit àl’éducation et de l’objectif de développement durable 4 face à l’importance croissante des acteurs privés dans le domaine de l’éducation.

Elle présente au Conseil des droits de l’homme et aux États Membres de l’Organisation des Nations Unies les Principes d’Abidjan sur les obligations en matière de droits de l’homme qui incombent aux États de fournir un enseignement public et de réglementer la participation du secteur privé dans le domaine de l’éducation, etrecommande de les mettre pleinement en œuvre.

Elle rappelle que le droit international des droits de l’homme impose aux États l’obligation de garantir un enseignement public gratuit et de qualité. Selon leur nature et leurs objectifs, les acteurs privés peuvent contribuer à la réalisation du droit à l’éducation et favoriser notamment le respect de la diversité culturelle en proposant de nouvelles formes d’éducation. Le sous-financement chronique de l’enseignement public et l’essor rapide et non réglementé des acteurs privés, en particulier ceux à vocation commerciale, dans le domaine de l’éducation, menacent toutefois la mise en œuvre du droit à l’éducation pour tous et la réalisation de l’objectif de développement durable 4.

Le rapport contient des observations et des recommandations concernant l’obligation qui incombe aux États de garantir et de financer un enseignement public, ainsi que des suggestions et des solutions concrètes. Il s’inspire des Principes d’Abidjan, notamment en ce qui concerne l’obligation de réglementer la participation des acteurs privés dans le domaine de l’éducation, les partenariats public-privé et le rôle des donateurs et de la société civile.


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Key resource

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur examines how the right to education, and the commitments made under the Sustainable Development Goals, provide guidance for governance in national education systems. She considers how the right to education should be mainstreamed into education governance. Governance in this context can be thought to include the laws, policies, institutions, administrative procedures and practices, monitoring and accountability mechanisms, and judicial procedures that are related to education. A rights-based approach should be adopted to ensure not only that nondiscrimination and equitable access for all are mainstreamed, but also that learners who have been the hardest to reach, including members of vulnerable groups, are prioritized, even if such decisions run counter to the traditional emphasis on efficiency.