Step 1: Plan & Focus

This step will guide you through all the things you need to consider in planning your monitoring project, including how to decide which topic(s) to focus on and whether to seek additional help.

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1.1 The need for a clear focus

A clear and well-thought out focus is crucial to ensure that you will be able to carry out your research with adequate rigour and incisiveness, as well as to increase the effectiveness of youradvocacy efforts.

This preliminary step will help you determine which aspect(s) of the right to education you shouldmonitor. The nature of your work may automatically shape the scope of your monitoring work. For example, if your organisation’s mission is to serve the local community and to work with local schools, then your geographic scope may already be determined.

It is also likely that your initial motivation to monitor the right to education comes from the fact that you have already identified a specific problem in education that you want to address. If this is the case this step may still be useful in helping you to critically assess your chosen thematic focus and to determine whether it requires further refining.

Nevertheless, if you consider that the thematic focus of your monitoring project is both well thought through and sufficiently narrow, you may skip this section of the Guide and move directly to Step 2.

1.2 Criteria for deciding your focus

Various criteria should be taken into account when determining the thematic focus of yourmonitoring work, including:

Your organisation's remit

Your organisation’s remit may determine the type of monitoring project you undertake. For instance, your organisation may have a pre-determined geographic scope or area of focus, such as promoting women’s rights or the rights of persons with disabilities. In these instances it makes sense to focus your monitoring project on the obstacles that these specific groups face in fully enjoying their right to education.

Issues from the field

You may become aware of education issues from your work in the field or through media reports. For instance, if your organisation brings cases to court and you notice that there is a recurrent problem in the education system, you may decide to carry out a monitoring project to better understand the issue.

The gravity and / or scope of the problem

If you are considering more than one potential thematic focus, you may want to prioritise those problems that affect more people (eg this project that found thatover half of children who finish fifth grade cannot do basic subtraction) and / or that are grave in terms of the violation (egcases of segregation where children from ethnic minority groups are placed into ‘special schools’ with lower quality education).

Your target audience

A key consideration in the focus and scope of your monitoring project is your target audience(s), who you are trying to influence with your monitoring report. Sometimes, the target audience may be theduty-bearer responsible for realising the right to education (eg the Ministry of Education). Other times, the primary target audience of your monitoring exercise may be an institution or mechanism that could influence the duty-bearers. For instance, you may write a monitoring report for a key meeting of the Education Parliamentary Committee, with the expectation that this Committee will have the leverage to influence the government’s policy, or you may write ashadow report for aUN treaty body (see Step 6.2) when a State appears before that mechanism. In this case, the thematic focus of that mechanism will likely inform the thematic focus of your monitoring exercise, as explainedhere.

The allotted time for the monitoring exercise

If your monitoring project is meant to be submitted in an event or meeting with a fixed date (eg a UN conference or the inauguration of a new government) you may need to narrow the parameters of the monitoring project, in order to ensure you will have sufficient time to carry it out.

Skills of those carrying out the monitoring exercise

The aims of the monitoring project should be achievable by the people conducting the research. It is vitally important that you honestly assess the capacities of those involved and that you are able to enlist the expertise and skills of others if needed. For instance, it might be difficult to focus your monitoring on the financing of the education system, if you are not able to enlist – either in your own organisation or amongst other partners – people with some experience and skills on budget analysis. See Step 1.4 for further information on collaborating with others.

Advocacy opportunities

The leverage your organisation has to influence policy changes on a specific issue related to the right to education will often be the key criterion in determining whether you should focus your monitoring work on that issue. This is because, as we saw in Why monitor the right to education?, one of the key goals of monitoring the right to education is to influence policy-makers to fully commit to theprogressive realisation of that right. In some cases, you may choose to focus on a specific issue because there is a unique window of opportunity to influence the government on that issue. Other times, you may decide not to focus on an issue because, after analysing the political environment in the country, you reach the conclusion that the political obstacles areinsurmountable. If your organisation works at the regional or global level, you may decide to focus your monitoring efforts on a State that is up for review by a UN treaty body or other human rights mechanism.

For further information on advocacy strategies, see Step 6.2.

1.3 Categories of education

Typically monitoring projects on the right to education focus on one or more of the following categories: level of education, geographic focus, a specific marginalised group, a specific type of education, or a specific context. The table below presents some of the categories you may wish to focus on: 

Level or type of education





Technical and vocational


Adult / Fundamental education

Geographic focus


Local community

District (school, local authority or county)

Provincial (sub-national or federal)




Marginalised group

Girls or women

Ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities

Indigenous peoples

Refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants, immigrants, or internally displaced persons

Persons with disabilities (including physical, mental, intellectual and sensory impairments)

People living in extreme poverty (socio-economic status)

Birth status

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons (LGBTI)

Street children

Homeless persons

Persons in detention

Child labourers

Child soldiers

Persons with HIV / AIDS

Other marginalised or vulnerable groups (depending on your local context)


Conflict (including periods of social unrest or post-conflict recovery)

Natural disasters

Health crises

Economic crises

You can further narrow down your thematic focus by concentrating on a category within a category. For instance, you may focus on unequal access to a specific level of education of a specific marginalised group, as Amnesty International has done in thisreport.

Another strategy is to focus onmultiple forms of discrimination, for instance girls from an ethnic minority, living in poverty.

Lastly, as you undertake your monitoring project, you may find that you narrow down your focus because the outcome data you gather (Step 2.2)exposes where the most serious deprivations and inequalities occur.

1.4 Assess your capacities and identify partners

Monitoring the right to education is often a complex endeavour, requiring a variety of skills and expertise. Therefore, you may wish to consider collaborating with others. In addition to providing financial or technical assistance, they can increase the credibility of your work, and help to harmonise theadvocacy message across the particular region or area that you work in.

To assess whether you and / or your organisation should collaborate with other people or organisations, you should consider the following:

Identify resources needed

Make a list of the various types of resources you will need to carry out the monitoring project. Resources may include specific expertise or skills and access to data andstakeholders you want to interview. You should also take into account that the resources that are needed may change as the project evolves. 

Resources needed to carry out monitoring projects on the right to education may include:​​​

  • Skills in quantitative and qualitative research.
  • Field research and documentation skills.
  • Knowledge of human rights standards and how to apply them.
  • Familiarity witheducation policies and processes.
  • Experience in writing for advocacy purposes.
  • Access to policy-makers or civil servants who can provide data.
  • Access to stakeholders in the field (school principals, teachers’ unions, etc).

Check your own resources

Assess whether you have all the necessary resources identified in the step above to carry out the monitoring project and the financial resources to cover areas that you are missing. Your organisation might be strong in some aspects of the monitoring process but fall short in others. For instance, you may have skills on quantitative and qualitative education research but not have sufficient knowledge of human rights standards to be able to apply them in concrete situations. You may have both of these resources but lack contacts in the area where you are planning to carry out fieldwork and therefore need a local partner who can facilitate access to schools, teachers, children, etc. 

Collaborate with others

If after the previous steps you realise that you do not have all of the resources needed to effectively carry out your monitoring project, you should considercollaborating with other organisations and individuals. Depending on the gap in your resources, you may decide to work, for instance, with community organisations, research institutes or human rights advocacy groups.


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