Right to Education

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Education is an extremely important human right as it is “both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights”. The right to education is outlined in Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). 

The Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors how well governments are implementing this right, has outlined the following elements that must be adhered to in the provision of education and thereby, what public officials should ensure their solutions comply with to allow individuals the full realisation of their right to education.

  • Availability

The right to education ensures that the state must have in place a functioning educational system with educational institutions and programmes. They must be functioning in the sense that they have trained teachers, teaching materials, access to teaching facilities such as a library and so on.

  • Accessibility

The state must ensure that education is accessible to everyone without discrimination. Accessibility has three overlapping dimensions. Firstly, it must be non-discriminatory, especially to vulnerable groups, without discrimination on any of the prohibited grounds such as race and religion. It must also be physically accessible within safe reach and a convenient geographically and finally, it should also have economically accessible in that it must be affordable to all. This is subject to different wording in terms of primary, secondary and higher education. Primary must be free to all whereas state parties are only suggested to introduce free secondary and higher education.

  • Acceptability

The form and substance of education, including curricula and teaching methods, have to be acceptable (e.g. relevant, culturally appropriate and of good quality).

  • Adaptability

Education should be flexible so it can adapt to the needs of changing societies and communities and respond to the needs of students within their diverse social and cultural settings.

As an economic, social and cultural right, Government should use its maximum available resources to continuously improve the realisation of this right, which may include investment in newer technologies for educational facilities and earmarking funds for additional staff and training. States have obligations to respect, protect and fulfil each of the “essential features” (availability, accessibility, acceptability, adaptability) of the right to education.