The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in 1948 and one of the articles, article XXVI deals with protection of the fundamental rights, right to education: (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 right to education is a universal right and is recognized as a human right. It includes the right to free, non biased and non political primary education for everyone, to make secondary education at least accessible to everyone and make access to higher education.
The right to education also provides the obligation to avoid discrimination at all educational levels and to improve quality of education. Furthermore, the European Court of Human Rights defined „education as teaching or instructions in particular to the transmission of knowledge and to intellectual development” and in a wider sense as “the whole process whereby, in any society, adults endeavor to transmit their beliefs, culture and other values to the young. “ The rights to educations have been separated into three levels.
Primary also known as elemental or fundamental education must be compulsory and free for any young person. It must not be discriminatory on nationality, gender, sexuality, etc. All countries ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights States must provide free primary education within two years. Secondary education must be available and accessible to anyone regardless of nationality, gender, or sexuality. It can be free or not, and it can be compulsory, but it does not have to be.
In some countries, even though minority, secondary education is compulsory, for example in Denmark, Croatia, Finland, etc. Higher education at the University level must be accessible to persons who meet necessary education standards to be able to go to universities. Higher education does not falls under the provision of free education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) proclaims that: „Everyone has the right to education“, the question is to what kind of education or who should provide it?
The fact is that UDHR was drawn up in 1948 when only a minority of young people in the world had access to any type of education, however, today we can say that situation is much better, showing that four out of five adults worldwide have some literacy skills. The purpose of the UDHR’s article XXVI is not just having quantative aspect, but also qualitative. The UDHR’s article XXVI has certain provisions that must be fulfilled in order to have qualitative education, such provisions are: „Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages“and „Elementary education shall be compulsory“.
Today educational opportunities have significantly changed in most parts of the world especially in Europe, North America, and Asia, nevertheless Africa remains the main problem regarding the number of educated people. Another interesting point has been made over the years, whether educational institutions are ready to provide qualitive education to young people, and prepare them for social, economical, and political aspects of human life.
The commitment of the international community to implement the rights set out in the UDHR, mainly to adopt certain measures to ensure effective recognition, has taken different forms from international treaties to internationally agreed programmers. The UDHR’s rights and standards do not have force of law, however, the UDHR’s rights have been transformed into treaty provisions making legal obligation on the states that ratified the treaty to provide citizens with free and qualitative education on at least primary level.
The right to education is dealt with in Articles XIII and XIV of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and is also mentioned in Article XVIII(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As I previously mentioned almost all countries in the world have adopted and ratified treaties concerning right to education, but only some of them left doors open to individual citizens in their countries to challenge their own country for not complying with the provisions that they set in the treaties if that is the case.
In all Western Europe countries which have highly developed legal system, now exists a body of case law in regard to the right to education. Besides international treaties, countries worldwide have adopted other instruments for implementation of the right to education, from Recommendations of international conferences of States, to Declarations and Programmes or Frameworks for Action adopted by intergovernmental conferences, or by ‘mixed’ conferences composed of representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society such as the World Conference on Education for All.
The recommendations agreed by international conferences of states do not have the legally binding force as treaties, thus, they are normally adopted by consensus on the understanding that country will make everything in its power to implement provisions. In the world’s perception of the right to education changes has been made in the few past decades. the changes occurred in three phases or stages.
In the first phase, lasting from the late 1940s up until the early 1960s, international concern over the provision of ‘fundamental education’ came to focus particularly on literacy and expansion of elementary of primary education in developing countries. The second phase started in the mid 1960s until the late 1970s when focus passed on functional illiteracy and expansion of elementary education continued. In the last phase, from 1980s until the present functional literacy was regarded as an aspect of learning needs. Two general points for educational policy can be made.
The first is national efforts to reach out to those illiterate adults especially in Africa and the second to expand access to elementary education for the younger generation again mainly in Africa. These two points are the grounds for fulfillment of the UDHR article XXVI – right to education. Other provisions can be only partially fulfilled such as free education, but two provisions I mentioned can be fulfilled entirely in the whole world. The assessment of the fulfillment of the right to education is done by using so called 4As framework, which means that education must be available, adaptable, acceptable, and accessible.
This 4A framework was developed by Mrs. Katarina Tomasevski, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education. This 4A framework is intended to be applied on the governments, parents, and teachers. I will briefly explain these 4 As. Availability means that education must be funded mainly by the governments, education must be universal, free, and compulsory. The governments must ensure necessary infrastructure and educational materials for students and professors. Facilities intended to be schools must satisfy all safety standards, and all each school must have enough professional educators.
Adaptability means that educational programs should be flexible and schools must respect all religious holiday. Adequate care must be given to student and professors with disabilities. Accessibility means all children must have access to school regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality or social status. School must be within a reasonable distance for children, and if necessary transportation must be provided. Children must be supplied with all necessary textbooks and uniforms without additional costs.
Acceptability means that education that will be provided to students must be culturally appropriate and without if discrimination. Professors and methods of teaching must be objective, and all textbooks must not be bias or forcing single idea or belief. Professors must be at highest possible level of professionalism. UNESCO has several instruments for monitoring the implementation of the UDHR right of education with the support of Member States, various international organizations, the intellectual community, etc.
Thus, UNESCO’s constitution requires that member states must submit periodic reports on the implementation and development of the right to education. The articles VI and VIII of the UNESCO constitutions provides: „Each Member State shall submit to the Organization, at such time and in such manner as shall be determined by the General Conference, reports on laws, regulations and statistics relating to its educational, scientific and cultural institutions and activities, and on the action taken upon the recommendations and conventions“.
United Nation bodies which deal with human rights periodically receive reports from Member States, governmental and non-governmental organizations on implementation and violations of human rights including the right to education. The Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are just two treaty bodies out of several which monitor the implementation of the right to education. Thus, it is important that two treaty bodies I mentioned above closely cooperate with UNESCO in order to protect human rights.
It is important to mention five international treaties which relate to education and protection of such right: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention against Discrimination in Education, Protocol Instituting a Conciliation and Good Offices Commission to be Responsible for Seeking the Settlement of any Disputes which may arise between States Parties to the Convention Against Discrimination in Education, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Convention on Technical and Vocational Education.
Besides to all the efforts of the United Nation, UNESCO, various international agencies and organization to implement UDHR’s provisions mainly article XXVI, many governments still give too little attention to protection of human rights. Hugh amount of money are being injected in military development and maintenance, while education as the important pillar of the modern society still stays on the margins of the governments budgets.
Mrs. Katarina Tomasevski, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education wrote interesting comparison stating that there are 150 soldiers for every 100 teachers in the world. She additionally stated that only 2% of educational funds come from international aid. Thus, in many African countries even primary education is not free and education simply becomes too expensive for the poor families in those countries.
Education cannot survive without money, and implementation and protection of the right to education depends upon the funds that governments and international organizations are willing to provide. We can conclude that only Europe and North America managed to satisfy all the requirements stated in the United Declaration of Human Rights article XXVI. There is still a lot of work to be done to copy this example to the rest of the world, especially in Africa, where education is only one problem among many others.
The United Nations
Right to education organization
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization The State of the Right to Education Worldwide: Free or Fee
World education report. 2000. Unesco Publishing.