18 Enero 2022

A new article, ‘Human rights to evaluate evidence on non-state involvement in education’, was published on 10 December as a background paper to the latest edition of the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, ‘Non-state actors in education: who chooses? who loses?’,

Co-authored by RTE’s executive Director Delphine Dorsi; Professor Frank Adamson, Sacramento State University; Sylvain Aubry, GI-ESCR; and Meredith Galloway, Sacramento State University, this paper draws upon the Abidjan Principles, the reference text on the right to education which was adopted in 2019 by a group of international experts. The authors demonstrate how the Principles can be used to measure the extent to which and in what manner States are implementing the right to education, with a particular focus on the role of non-State actors.

It specifically applies the Abidjan Principles’ right to education framework to education research in the following steps:

  1. Providing details about the right to education outlined in the Abidjan Principles
  2. Conceptually mapping differences between public and private education and how best to situate non-State actors
  3. Presenting a human-rights framework tool for evaluating educational systems, and
  4. Applying this tool in three case study examples

The paper also shows how education analysis can be reframed through a human rights lens to provide a wider vision than the typically narrow presentation of education as a generator of human capital. It uses an analysis which intersects human rights law and social sciences to evaluate the role of non-State actors in education, concluding with three particularly salient findings: 

‘First, using a human rights framework to analyse education can expand researchers’ perspectives beyond an outcomes-only basis to a systemic analysis of the efforts of the State – through its structural (in particular, the law) and procedural (looking in particular at budgets) levels. 

Second, as outlined above, the right to education is often understood restrictively to mean only or mostly access to education (sometimes with an understanding of ‘equity’), but it actually encompasses much more. They have three types of obligations that are often under-regarded, yet especially relevant for the consideration of the role of non-State actors. 

1) States must provide for public education of the highest attainable quality to all. This includes the removal of any barriers to access, the maximization of resources for public education, and the provision of plural and inclusive education. 

2) States must respect parents’ liberty in education under certain conditions. They can limit this exercise of this liberty if it undermines the realisation of the right to education 

3) States must regulate non-State providers. When part of the education sector, non-State actors must not be permitted to infringe on the realisation of the right to education across the system or at an individual institution. 

Third and finally, researchers - and users of research - should be careful about studies which claim to be neutral with technical solutions and those which obfuscate trade-offs, especially if those are used to inform a position informed by human rights (which should be the case for instance of all States using research to inform their development aid policy). By its nature, research requires authors to assume theoretical frameworks for interpreting findings. Authors who fail to elucidate and elaborate on the assumptions and trade-offs they employ can undermine the study’s credibility and utility for the purpose of the right to education.’

The full article is available here, and the full 2021-22 GEM Report can be accessed here.