Retrogressive measures are those taken by States that downgrade or limit existing levels of enjoyment of the right to education. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states:

“There is a strong presumption of impermissibility of any retrogressive measures taken in relation to the right to education, as well as other rights enunciated in the Covenant. If any deliberately retrogressive measures are taken, the State party has the burden of proving that they have been introduced after the most careful consideration of all alternatives and that they are fully justified by reference to the totality of the rights provided for in the Covenant and in the context of the full use of the State party’s maximum available resources” (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1999) General Comment 13: The right to education (Article 13): Para.45).

Examples of retrogressive measures include introducing school fees in secondary education when it had formerly been free of charge or an unjustified reduction of public expenditure on education.