5.1 Accountability

In a lot of countries, many of the lasting problems in the delivery of education – unequal access to schools, poor quality, chronic teacher absenteeism, endemic corruption – are related to weak accountability mechanisms.

Rights imply duties, and obligations - to be effective - require accountability mechanisms. Human rights law can be used to hold governments – the primaryduty-bearer of human rights – accountable for avoidable deprivations and inequalities of education outcomes.

As part of your monitoring effort, you may want to assess the key accountability mechanisms that affect the full realisation of the right to education, including:

Inspection system within the education sector

Under international law, States are obliged to “establish and maintain a transparent and effective system which monitors whether or not education is, in fact, directed to the educational objectives set out in article 13 (1)” (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) General Comment 13: Para.49). In addition all education provided by private actors must conform to State-approved minimum standards and the State must maintain a transparent and effective system to monitor such minimum standards (CESCR General Comment 13: Para.54). For these reasons, most countries have oversight mechanisms within the education sector, enabling the Ministry of Education to assess theavailability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of its services, as well as its impact on the population. In evaluating the extent to which this type of system is effective in holding schools, teachers and school principals accountable for their performance, you may look at the following issues:

Complaint mechanisms

Most countries have complaint mechanisms that allow individuals to file complaints if they feel that their right to education has been violated. These complaint mechanisms, typically a human rights commission, an ombudsman or a Parliamentary Committee, provide an institutionalised process through which duty-bearers can be held accountable in relation to their duties, andright-holders can demand a remedy for human rights violations.

To assess the extent to which existing complaint mechanisms in your country serve as an effective means for accountability regarding violations of the right to education, you may want to analyse the following issues, using theIndicators Selection Tool:

  • Thenumber of administrative complaints on the right to education would indicate the extent to which the complaint mechanisms are being used.
  • The percentage of right to education complaints resolved within a given time frame may indicate whether the procedure is efficient and timely.
  • A comparison of the number of complaints received by the oversight institution(s), the number investigated, the number substantiated by investigation and the number of sanctions for staff and / or redress for the citizens involved. Theproportion of received complaints on the right to education that have been investigated by an administrative body would demonstrate the extent to which the institution has effective enforcement powers.
  • The extent to which the public has readily accessible information about the existence and procedures related to complaint mechanisms.
  • You could also assess the extent to which the oversight institutions responsible for handling complaints meet certainminimum conditions to be able to hold the government and civil servants accountable for violations of the right to education.

Judicial accountability

In countries where the right to education has been recognised in the constitution or in legislation and isjusticiable, courts can play a key role in holding governments to account. (If the right to education is not formally recognised and redress is not possible, then this is evidence of a lack of accountability.)

The number of legal cases that have been brought under these provisions is one indicator of their effectiveness, as is thenumber of court cases on educational rights. However, it is important to bear in mind that these numbers are not always due to the effectiveness of courts at holding governments to account. They could be due to: better investigative techniques, increased confidence in the judicial system that has led more people to report abuses, an increase in cases that have been brought against certain political opponents, or other factors. At the same time, a major factor influencing judicial accountability is the degree ofjudicial independence. Therefore, beyond looking at the number of cases brought to courts under provisions related to the right to education, it is also necessary to examine theproportion of court cases on the right to education that have been adjudicated against the State. You may also want to look at how and if court judgements are effectively enforced.