Putting the right to education at the heart of the Transformation of Education

TES meeting photo

The transformation of education needs to be grounded in human rights. The combination of historic and novel demands of the right to education suggest that the time has come to consider how the international framework could be reinforced to ensure its enduring relevance. Expanding the scope of the right to education is becoming a necessity.

During the Transforming Education Pre-Summit at UNESCO Headquarters, together with UNESCO partners working on the right to education, a side meeting on ‘Transforming education: the need to expand the international legal framework’ was held on 29 June 2022.

Organized around a panel discussion, Borhene Chakroun (UNESCO), who chaired the meeting, began by framing the discussion from a lifelong, system-wide perspective and highlighting the importance of giving concrete substance to ensuring the interdependence of human rights. This perspective was further detailed by Mercedes Mayol Lassalle (World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP)), Bede Sheppard (Human Rights Watch) and Ana Raquel Fuentes (Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE)) who spoke of the need to strengthen state obligations from early childhood education and care to secondary and adult education —including higher education and youth and adult education—, by adopting a holistic approach, enhancing access and removing all barriers, including fees.

Digital competencies are now part of relevant quality education but, as stated by Koumbou Boly Barry (UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education), must be accompanied by the legal protection of learner’s data and digital inclusion. Delphine Dorsi (Right to Education Initiative) further added the need to strengthen the aims of education to promote the application of human rights daily.

During the discussion, ensuring strong governance was also emphasized as important component of expanding the right to education. In reviewing the international legal frameworks, clearer state obligations need to be made with regard to financing, particularly linking the obligation to use maximum available resources to increase the size of the budget through progressive taxation reforms, as stated by Maria Ron Balsera (TaxEd Alliance Coordinator, ActionAid) and regulating non-state actors in education, as highlighted by Vernor Muñoz (Global Campaign for Education (GCE)).

This side meeting is an important step of the journey in reviewing the international legal framework on the right to education. All the ideas, considerations and propositions from events, meetings and consultations are being reflected in an in-depth research paper which will put forward suggested areas that could be expanded in relation to all aspects of the right to education. All updates on the project can be followed on the dedicated webpage

In the last day of the Pre-Summit, in the session presenting the takeaways of the 5 thematic action tracks, Leonardo Garnier, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Transforming Education Summit recalled, human rights have never been achieved easily: If we want to transform and improve education, we have to fight for it. This includes, expanding State’s obligations to ensure inclusive, quality education for all. 

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