8. Right to education
Students learn that all children in the world are entitled to primary education. This module helps them understand the challenges that some children are facing, and their difficulties to going to school and having access to education.
The module helps students see the link between education and rights - the purpose of education as a full development of the human personality and education that can promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Students learn that all children in the world are entitled to primary education. This module helps them understand the challenges that some children are facing, and their difficulties to going to school and having access to education. The module helps students see the link between education and rights – the purpose of education as a comprehensive tool for developing the human personality and as a way to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Short description of the session
The aim of this session is to give pupils knowledge about the right to education and emphasise its importance for the individual and for society. The session consists of an introductory exercise, a lecture on the right to education, a follow-up activity, and an activity to be developed after a visit to the museum.
Firstly, the introductory exercise will make pupils discuss the idea of education and its tools.
Secondly, the lecture will provide information that should be used as source in the following discussions.
Thirdly, the follow-up activity is structured as a group discussion which will help pupils identify the aims related to the right to education. Lastly, the pupils will identify tools in museums that contribute to the right to education. The proposed activity will also highlight the fact that education should be for all persons.
- Make the pupils reflect on what is necessary in order to have access to education
- Make the pupils learn about right to education and its importance to society
- Make the pupils analyse the aims of the right to education
- Time: 1–2 hours
- Requirements: Enough space for working in groups; pieces of paper for the exercise
- Preparation (for the teacher): Lecture on the right to education
What is education? Why do you need it? What are the tools you need in order to have access to education?
The pupils should be divided in three groups.
- Each group will receive one of the following questions and a pen and paper for their answers.
- Draw the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase: ’What is education?’ Explain to your group why you chose what you drew.
- Write down what you need in order to have access to education.
- In your city
- In your house
- In school
- Write down why you need education.
After discussing and answering the questions in their group, the pupils should present their answers to everyone in class. Their presentation will be a starting point to analyse the right to education and its importance to society.
There is no ‘right’ answer to the above exercises, but rather, it is supposed to be used as a starting point to further discussions on the importance of education. Likely responses from the pupils might include:
- Drawings of classrooms, books, brain/heads, letters and numbers, studying, etc.
- Teacher response: Highlight that education can also be outside classrooms, but that it is different than informal learning at home.
- Teacher response: Highlight if drawings include broad interpretations of education.
- Teacher response: Highlight that education is not just letters and numbers, but also includes broader human learning that involves the whole mind and body.
- Students may bring up multiple aspects of costs/needs for education, for example: direct and indirect cost, supplies (books, pens, backpacks, etc.) white-board, desks and chairs, etc.
- Teacher response: Bring student insights into the broader terms of free schooling, direct and indirect cost of education, etc.
- Students may bring up multiple benefits of education, for example: learning to read-and-write, understanding society, participating in politics, getting a job, etc.
- Teacher response: Bring student insights into the broader terms of discrimination, personal development, quality of education, cultural rights, etc.
The Right to Education
Cambridge Dictionary defines education as ‘the process of teaching or learning, especially in a school or college, or the knowledge that you get from this’. Similarly, acclaimed encyclopaedia Britannica defines education as ‘the discipline concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various non-formal and informal means of socialisation.” Hence, education can be understood as the transmission of the values and accumulated knowledge of a society.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
The provisions in Article 26 of the UDHR have been the basis for further discussions and guarantees regarding the right to education. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) made Article 26 of the UDHR legally binding through its Articles 13 and 14.
Article 13 (ICESCR) specifies that the right to education is a universal right, guaranteed to every person, without discrimination. It means that it should be offered equally to all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, or other status. In the same context, the education provided by the state should be of the same quality through all of its territory, in order to not discriminate based on geographic location.
Article 13 (ICESCR) also highlights the steps the States need to take in order to comply with the obligation to ensure the right to education. Firstly, the State must offer free and compulsory primary education, meaning that no child should have to pay for his schooling and should not be deprived of schooling if he cannot pay for it. Furthermore, free education includes both direct costs, such as school fees, and indirect costs, such as textbooks, school meals, school uniforms, and infrastructure. On this regard, the European Court on Human Rights has held that the State cannot give away its responsibility by delegating its obligation to private schools. By stating that primary education is compulsory, the provision highlights that no third-party, including the parents, can withhold a person from attending primary school.
Secondly, the provision emphasises that secondary and higher education, including technical and vocational education, should by all appropriate means be made available and accessible to all persons, and if possible, the State should progressively pursue free education. Thirdly, fundamental education should be encouraged for people that have not received a complete primary education. Lastly, the development of a school system, including the material conditions and teaching staff, should be actively pursued and continuously improved.
In addition to achieving full realisation of education, the State also has the obligation to respect the free choice of education, meaning that the State must respect the liberty of parents, or legal guardians, to choose education that confirm with their own convictions, as long as they adhere to the minimum educational standards. For example, parents have the right to choose a school that is in accordance with their religious, moral, or philosophical beliefs.
Article 14 (ICESCR) highlights the obligations of each State to secure compulsory and free primary education in their territory, within a reasonable time. Highlighting that a State that does not currently have compulsory and free primary education and has signed the ICESCR, is obliged to have a fixed plan to work progressively towards implementing it to all persons, within two years after signing the Convention.
The right to education is also guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child in its Articles 28 and 29. Article 28 states that ‘State Parties recognise the right of children to education’ and ‘should take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity.’Article 29 focuses on the aims of education, for example, the development of the child’s personality, respect for human rights and natural environment, as well as, the preparation of the child for leading responsible life in a free society. Both articles highlight the child’s right to education and the quality and content of the provided education.
According to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the obligations of the State resulting from the above-mentioned international laws can be divided into three types. Firstly, the State has the obligation to respect the right to education, meaning that it cannot prevent a student from obtaining education by, for example, closing public schools or interfering in the choice of education. Secondly, the State has the obligation to protect, meaning that it has to guarantee the exercise of the right to education. For example, to protect students against discrimination in private schools and also to develop legislation to prevent child labour or any other activities that may affect the compulsory primary education. Lastly, the obligation to fulfil, meaning that the State must make education available and accessible to all. Including, to provide necessary material and financial investments to meet the minimum core obligation, in order to make it acceptable and adaptable to all in its communities.
It is important to highlight that the United Nations have the sustainable development goals as a call for action to all countries in order to promote wealth while protecting the planet. The 4th sustainable development goal in the list is quality education. Education can equip persons with tools that can have a positive impact on society through enabling the emergence of solutions for current global challenges.
By complying to its obligations regarding the right to education, the State also invests in economic growth, health, poverty reduction, personal development, and democracy. The reason for this broad impact is because the right to education is an ‘empowering right’, since it enables people to access other human rights. Firstly, education enhances social mobility since it is connected to economic, social and cultural rights. For example, an educated person has a higher chance of getting a job, has better chances of securing sufficient food supply, and has better knowledge of health issues. Secondly, the right to education is also connected to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, by guaranteeing the parents a free choice of educating their children in accordance to their own conviction. Lastly, through education people can make contributions to society as independent and empowered citizens, enabling themselves to better exercise their civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to political participation. In this sense, the right to education is a threat to autocratic rule and thus strengthens democracy in the world.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights URL: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ General Comment No. 1: The Aims of Education (article 29) (2001), URL: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/Training/Compilation/Pages/a)GeneralCommentNo1TheAimsofEducation(article29)(2001).aspx
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, URL: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx Sustainable Development, URL: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/
Convention on the Rights of the Child, URL: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx
As a follow-up activity after the lecture, the pupils should work in groups of 3 or 4. Each group will analyse one of the following four documents: Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Convention on the Right of the Child; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in order to identify articles that discuss the right to education.
In addition, the groups should prepare a list concerning the aims of education present in the analysed document. Students should also present their findings to each other in class.
How to use the museums
Museums are sources of knowledge and an important tool for education. The pupils can visit exhibitions in their home town or online and make notes of types of tools they find in the exhibitions. They should analyse how the exhibition is spreading its message and also if it is accessible for all persons. In addition, pupils should write what they have learned by visiting the museum.
- Did you find videos in the exhibition? Yes/No
- How many pictures did you find?
- Did the pictures have a caption? Yes/No
- Did the exhibition have interactive tools? Yes/No
- Was the exhibition wheelchair accessible? Yes/No
- What did you learn visiting this exhibition?
- Do you think visiting the museum has been a valuable addition to the education you get in school? If yes, Why?