The Right to Education – A Global Perspective “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ” Nelson Mandela This saying of Nelson Mandela reveals a lot about the importance of education as a mean of achieving the changes we want to see in the world. Realizing the importance of education is highly significant for the nation and the world as a whole; however, giving equal education opportunities to people within specific countries and around the world remains a challenge for the global society.
In order to overcome, or at least ease, such challenges, the right to education has been a subject of matter of international law, as well as state constitutions. While a great number of countries have been signatories and ratifiers of international conventions that protect the right to education, many countries have failed to provide the essential capacities to assure this right for various reasons. The failure to protect this right, no matter the reasons, has been quite harsh for the most vulnerable groups of different societies; hence, leaving millions of people worldwide without the capacity to contribute to a better world.
As such, this paper will firstly focus on the protection of this right by international law, and it will later focus on the protection of the right to education in the following countries: Finland, Venezuela, India and finally Kosova. The Right to Education and the International Law The right to education, as a human right, has been highly guaranteed and protected by international law for many decades now. To begin with, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 marked the universal recognition of the right to education.
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The Declaration guarantees the right to education through Article 26, which among others states that: “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 . ” Furthermore, the right to education is protected by the Convention against Discrimination in Education, adopted in 1960.
This convention, through its 19 articles plays a high significance in the struggle of the global society to hinder the discriminations and separations in education . Later on, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979, guarantees women equal rights with men in terms of education . In addition, in 1966, the right to education was also preserved in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, specifically through articles 13 and 14.
Both article of ICESCR make primary education compulsory and free of charge, as well as oblige the states to make secondary and higher education easily accessible to all . Nevertheless, the Convention on The Rights of The Child (CRC), adopted in 1989, was a significant step in the protection of children from discrimination of any form. Articles 28-32 of this convention particularly deal with discriminations made in education. Signatories of this convention “recognize the right of the child to education,…with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity . As mentioned previously, besides international law, the right to education is also enshrined in many regional instruments and most of the countries’ constitutions, though the compliance to the international/regional/national instruments varies to a great extent from country to country. As such, there are great disparities between school enrollment rates in different countries, and the following sections of this paper will deal with the protection/application of the right to education in specific countries and their effects on the education activities. Finland
Finland proved to be one of the most successful countries in the education field. Actually, it was ranked as the fourth country out of 48 countries belonging to different development phases. Undoubtedly, one of the crucial factors that facilitated this achievement was Finland’s hard work in protecting the right to education. First of all, Finland is a signatory of all of the above-mentioned international instruments, which make Finland legally binding to all of the above articles. Furthermore, the Constitution of Finland protects the right to education through Section 16 of Chapter 2 .
The constitution makes primary education free and compulsory to all children. Nevertheless, the constitution makes the state accountable for providing equal opportunities to all citizens even after finishing the compulsory education . The right to basic education in Finland is further protected by the Basic Education Act, which makes the municipalities responsible for providing education in both languages (Sweedish and Finnish), as well as providing free school materials, meals, and transportation to all students of pre – primary and primary education.
The Basic Education Act also protects the right to education of the disabled children by making them entitled to special “interpretation and assistance services”, all for free . Furthermore, the Universities Act of Finland makes undergraduate studies free of charge for studies in Finnish and Swedish, as well as freeing from undergraduate studies tuition students of EU member countries . As mentioned previously, Finland is one of the few countries where the right to education is well protected, and cases of violations of this right are not common at all and are hard to find. Venezuela
Venezuela has ratified all the international instruments mentioned above, which means that Venezuela is obliged to comply with those articles that regulate the right to education. Besides that, the right to education in Venezuela is also protected under the Venezuelan Constitution. Chapter VI of this constitution deals specifically with education, and Article 102 of this chapter states that “Education is a human right and a fundamental social duty, it is democratic, free of charge and obligatory . ” Further, Article 103 guarantees equal opportunities for all students, including disabled students .
In addition to the Venezuelan Constitution, the right to education in Venezuela is also protected by the Organic Law of Education, decreed on 2009. Article 3 of this law, makes education “public, social, compulsory, free of charge… quality, secular, comprehensive, and permanent, of social pertinence, creative, artistic, innovative, critical, multicultural, multiethnic, intercultural, and multilingual ”. Article 6 of the Law gives access to education to disabled students and students in the “Adolescent Responsibility Penal System” .
Furthermore, Article 6 makes the state responsible for developing the mechanisms that control the right to education. However, despite the progress Venezuela made in legally protecting the right to education, many challenges still remain and make the reality less desirable, one of those issues being the certification of the asylum students. Asylum seekers deal with delays in getting certified for their studies because they have to first be recognized as refugees, a process that often takes a lot of time.
Furthermore, if an asylum seeker finishes a certain level of education in his/her home country, that certification will not be recognized until the student receives Venezuelan documents. As Rodrigo de La Barra puts, such delays of certification, prohibit students to continue with their studies, hence hindering motivation and increasing drop-out rates. It is important to mention that both these cases are violation of the Convention on the Rights of Children, a convention to which Venezuela is legally binding . India
Contrary to Finland and Venezuela, India is not legally binding to the International Convention against Discrimination in Education. Still, it is legally binding to the other international conventions dealing with education . The right to education in India is protected in its constitution in the Article 21A, which obliges the state to offer free/compulsory basic education to children 6-14 years old. Furthermore, Article 29. 2 prohibits the discrimination in education made to minorities, whether that is racial, religious, or caste based discrimination.
Nevertheless, Article 30 gives them the right to develop their own educational institutions . A highly significant step on the improvement of protection of the right to education in India was made in year 2009, when the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act was passed. This Act’s aim is guaranteeing every child of age 6-14 free and qualitative education, as well as defining the ways the state shall use in protecting such rights. Besides making education free and compulsory, this act also says that children cannot be left out because the admission period is over, or because of the lack of documents.
Furthermore, the act gives the disabled students the opportunity to participate in the mainstream education . Noticeably, the government of India has made important steps in protecting the right to education; still, what lies in papers is quite different from the actual situation in India. Though the school enrollment rates have increased in India after passing the Act, the participation rates and drop-out rates are not so optimistic. Yet another concern in India is the low quality education, which is a result of ”poor curriculum and syllabus, deficient pedagogy, negligent teachers ” and parents.
Nevertheless, discrimination, though prohibited by the Act, is still prevalent in the Indian education system. It is the Act itself that leaves space for such discrimination since it allows for school categorization as follows: “a) government schools b)aided private schools c)special category schools and d)non-aided private schools ”. By allowing the existence of such school categorization, the Act legitimizes the discrimination of the poorer children who become subjects of lower quality education, as compared to the rich students.
That violations of the right to education, guaranteed by the Act, are a serious concern in India, is shown by the great number of cases of violation. According to Amod Kanth , 10,500 cases of violation of the act have been recorded in Delhi, within a nine-month period after the implementation of the act. Kanth states that such violations are “of at least 15 kinds, like screening tests before admissions, corporal punishment, admission denial, mental harassment and others . These figures of the violations in the capital city seem quite concerning, and I believe that they clearly picture the state of the right to education in India. Conclusion In conclusion, education is an essential process which enhances the intellectual development of human beings. Despite being a right in itself, it is also a tool to achieve many other rights. Therefore, ensuring an education to every child is of a high significance, not only for the child alone, but also for the well-being and the development of the society.
As such, guaranteeing that every human being is given the opportunity to be provided with such a development activity has been an important subject of many international, regional, and national instruments, among them: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention against Discrimination in Education, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Convention on The Rights of The Child (CRC), as well as the national constitutions of almost all countries.
However, as the cases in Venezuela and India, show, the protection of the right to education by legal instruments is not sufficient unless its implementation in the real life is ensured. Problems related to the application of this right arise every day, leaving millions of children worldwide, including highly developed countries, without even basic education; hence, without the potential to contribute to the improvement of the global society.
Therefore, it is crucial that we, as individuals, start contributing to the gradually easing of the obstacles preventing the world from becoming a better place for everyone, either by making better laws or by implementing those laws better.
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