On 14 July, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution A/HRC/53/L.10 on the right to education. Recognising the political commitments made by the States at the last two major education conferences, the Transforming Education Summit in September in New York and the second World Conference on ECCE in November 2022 in Tashkent, the resolution draws the attention of states to a series of significant aspects. These include early childhood care and education (ECCE) rights, education under attack, gender discrimination, educational technology, financing, privatisation, and climate change. It culminates in a series of recommendations for states.
With regard to early childhood care and education, the resolution references the Tashkent Declaration while reaffirming the importance of early childhood care and education both as a means of realising the right to education and other social rights, and as a foundation for learning throughout the life cycle. It notes the indivisible nature of care and education. Significantly, the resolution notes the importance of state funded free and public ECCE to realising the right to education, particularly for children from marginalised and economically disadvantaged communities. Consequently, the resolution urges states to consider the provision of ‘free, public, inclusive, equitable and quality early childhood care and education’.
In the context of multiple ongoing conflicts, the resolution strongly comendms the recurring and ongoing attacks on students, teachers and educational facilities. It calls on states to strengthen protections of educational facilities at all levels against both attack and threat of attack. Further, it encourages states to consider signing the Safe Schools Declaration and implementing the Guidelines for Protecting schools and universities from military use during armed conflict. Considering environmental crises and natural disasters, the resolution notes their ongoing impacts on education systems and the realisation of the right to education, while recognising ‘the role of education in promoting awareness about climate change mitigation and adaptation’.
The resolution also addresses the growing influence of technology in education, noting the potential benefits of access to ‘reliable and affordable information and communications technology, including the Internet’ with regard to the realisation of the right to education. In particular, it notes the potential for digital technologies to provide ongoing learning in the context of emergencies, and recalls the role of education technologies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, it also expresses concerns regarding the growing digital divide as a result of inequalities in access to communications technologies including the internet, with inequalities ‘including but not limited to those based on gender, age, disability and migration or refugee status, and with their negative impact on the realization of the right to education’. As such, it stresses the need for both caution and debate as regards the incorporation of digital technologies, emphasising that they are ‘not a long term replacement for on-site schooling nor justifies the lack of investment in the human factor, particularly teachers, their continuous professional development and their working conditions,’
Consequently, the resolution calls upon states to ‘adequately assess when, how and to what extent to introduce technology and digital solutions in education systems, considering positive and negative consequences and their impact on human rights and on human dignity’. It goes on to suggest that standards and norms in compliance with international law could be considered.
The resolution also strongly highlights the overrepresentation of girls and women in the numbers of the out of school and illiterate, respectively, noting that this is illustrative of wide ranging historic and contemporary instances of discrimination, violence and inequality which disproportionately affect women and girls. It notes gender discrimination occurring on multiple axes, and points to several areas in which girls and women suffer disadvantage. Consequently, it calls on states to take all measures necessary to eliminate gender bias and gender stereotypes in education at all levels, while also accelerating efforts:
‘ to eliminate gender-based discrimination, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage, and all forms of violence, abuse and harassment, including sexual harassment, the sale and sexual exploitation and abuse of children, school-related sexual and gender-based violence, and bullying in schools and other educational settings both online and offline, in particular against those persons who are most vulnerable, discriminated against and marginalized, and to guarantee gender equality and the right to education for all’.
Regarding public education, the resolution references the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education, as previous resolutions by the HRC have similarly done. Resolution A/HRC/53/L.10 also takes note of the significance of the last four reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, including the most recent report on advances and challenges in securing the right to education; on the impact of digitalization of education on the right to education; on the right to education of migrants; and on early childhood care and education.
Significantly, the resolution encourages states to ‘give domestic legal effect to the right to education’, by ensuring its justiciability and by strengthening legal frameworks and adopting ‘adequate policies and programmes and to allocate sufficient resources, either individually or through international assistance and cooperation, to the full realization of the right to education’. Education financing is remarked upon further, with the resolution calling on states to make education a priority in their national budgets by granting sufficient budgetary allocations to education, to ensure accessible, inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory quality education to all at all levels’. With regard to financing, the resolution recognises the different needs to marginalised and vulnerable groups, including women and girls, vulnerable children, ethnic, national, linguistic and religious minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and those living in and situations of emergencies and conflict.