State obligations and responsibilities on the right to education
International human rights law lays down obligations which states are bound to respect.
By ratifying international human rights treaties, states assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.
Principal responsibility of states
States are the duty-bearers under international human rights law and hold the principal responsibility for the direct provision of the right to education, although there are exceptions for specific contexts.
Through ratification of international human rights treaties, governments undertake to put into place domestic measures and legislation compatible with their treaty obligations and duties.
All countries in the world have ratified at least one treaty, covering certain aspects of the right to education which means all of them are expected to implement that right.
Content of states’ obligations concerning the right to education
Like all human rights, the right to education imposes levels of obligation on states: to respect, protect and fulfil the right to education.
- The obligation to respect requires states to avoid measures that hinder or prevent the enjoyment of the right to education.
- The obligation to protect requires states to take measures that prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the right to education.
- The obligation to fulfil means that states must take positive measures that enable and assist individuals and communities to enjoy the right to education.
The obligations related to each of the 'essential features' of the right to education are categorised under four areas: availability, accessibility, acceptability, adaptability.
Main components of the right to education
States are also bound by the principles of non-retrogression (they should not take deliberate backward steps by adopting measures that will repeal or restrict existing guarantees of the right to education) and by allocating the maximum of their available resources.
For more information see the Right to education handbook.