Human rights are meant for all human beings regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. They are not to be given or taken away. Human rights are the basis for freedom, justice, and peace in the world. They are officially and universally recognised by all countries in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948, UDHR). Since the adoption of the UDHR, many agreements have been adopted by states to confirm and guarantee these rights legally.

Right to Education

Similarly, International human rights law guarantees the right to education. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, famously adopted in 1948, proclaims in Article 26: ‘Everyone has the right to education’. Since then, the right to education has been extensively recognised and developed by a number of international normative instruments enlarged by the United Nations, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966, CESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989, CRC), and the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960, CADE).

The right to education has also been reaffirmed in other treaties covering specific groups like women and girls, persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, Indigenous Peoples etc. It has also been incorporated into various regional treaties and preserved as a right in a massive majority of national constitutions.

It is explained that education is a right and not a privilege by the 4As. This popular 4As concept was initially developed by the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Katarina Tomaševski, and implemented by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment 13 on the right to education. To be a meaningful right, education in all its forms and at all levels shall exhibit these interconnected and essential features, which are given below.

  • Available–Education is free and there are satisfactory infrastructure and trained teachers able to support the distribution of education.
  • Accessible–The education system is non-discriminatory and reachable to all, and positive steps are taken to include the most marginalised.
  • Acceptable–The content of education is appropriate, non-discriminatory and culturally appropriate, and of quality.
  • Adaptable–Education evolves with the changing needs of society and challenges inequalities such as gender discrimination. Education adapts to suit locally specific needs and contexts.

Despite all these measures and other advances, warnings by the UN and global policy experts indicate that the global progress in education has “left behind” millions of children and young people. More children and youths are at risk of dropping out of school, and many are at school facing unsuitable learning conditions. Across the world, more than 120 million children and adolescents are absent from class.


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