Children sit listening in an assembly at Bangbandhu Primary School

The Right to Education

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The Right to an Education is one of the most important principles in becoming a Rights Respecting School. 

Education is a key social and cultural right and plays an important role in reducing poverty and child labour as well promoting democracy, peace, tolerance, development and economic growth. There are a number of articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that focus on a child’s right to education, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child has also expanded on the aims of education in their first General Comment.

Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child focus respectively on a child’s right to an education and on the quality and content of education.

Article 28 says that “State Parties recognise the right of children to education” and “should take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity.”

Article 29 of the Convention focuses on the aims of education and says that governments agree that “the education of the child shall be directed to:

  • The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
  • The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
  • The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate and for civilisations different from his or her own;
  • The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
  • The development of respect for the natural environment.”

The 1990 World Declaration on Education for All described education as being made up of essential learning tools such as literacy, numeracy and problem solving combined with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes required by human beings to survive, develop potential, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions and to continue learning.

General Comment on the aims of education

In 2001, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention, published a paper (called a General Comment) that explained and elaborated on the right to education.

The General Comment 1 on the aims of education provides a very clear overview of what the right to education means in practice:

  • Education must be child-centred and empowering; this applies to the curriculum as well as the educational processes, the pedagogical methods and the environment where education takes place.
  • Education must be provided in a way that respects the inherent dignity of the child and enables the child to express his or her views in accordance with article 12 (1) and to participate in school life.
  • Education must also be provided in a way that respects the strict limits on discipline reflected in article 28 (2) and promotes non-violence in school.
  • Education must include not only literacy and numeracy but also life skills such as the ability to make well-balanced decisions; to resolve conflicts in a non‑violent manner; and to develop a healthy lifestyle, good social relationships and responsibility, critical thinking, creative talents, and other abilities which give children the tools needed to pursue their options in life.

It’s important to remember that the Convention must be seen as a whole and so articles 28 and 29 should not be looked at or considered in isolation. Particular regard should be paid to the General Principles and other closely related articles for example: article 16 : protection of privacy, article 24 health (including health education), article 31 rest, leisure, play, recreation and culture.