The right to education is a universal entitlement to education, recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a human right that includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education.
The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses the obligation to rule outdiscrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to improve quality of education.
International legal basis
The right to education is a law in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to education has been reaffirmed in the 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities In Europe, Article 2 of the first Protocol of 20 March 1952 to the European Convention on Human Rights states that the right to education is recognized as a human right and is understood to establish an entitlement to education.
According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education in particular by the progressive introduction of free higher education.
The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses also the obligation to eliminate discrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to improve quality. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has applied this norm for example in the Belgian linguistic case. Article 10 of the European Social Charter guarantees the right to vocational education.
Education narrowly refers to formal institutional instructions. Generally, international instruments use the term in this sense and the right to education, as protected by international human rights instruments, refers primarily to education in a narrow sense. The 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education defines education in Article 1(2) as: “all types and levels of education, (including) access to education, the standard and quality of education, and the conditions under which it is given.” In a wider sense education may describe “all activities by which a human group transmits to its descendants a body of knowledge and skills and a moral code which enable the group to subsist”.
In this sense education refers to the transmission to a subsequent generation of those skills needed to perform tasks of daily living, and further passing on the social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical values of the particular community. The wider meaning of education has been recognised in Article 1(a) of UNESCO’s 1974 Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Someone has rightly said that If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.
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