26 December 2019

Re-examining the Right to Education from a Contemporary Perspective

Education is not only a fundamental human right, but also a prerequisite for everyone to realize human rights for themselves, individually and personally, as well as in the community and society to which people belong. At the same time, education is the basis for realizing a global society of all people. Education and teaching have both a fundamental role to play in creating a just society based on solidarity for all. And, education, learning and humanity are inextricably linked and permeate all spheres of human life.

It is a personal, and above all, comprehensive right which can be realized beyond political, economic and religious provisions. The United Nations has expressed this not least explicitly in the position of the right to education within article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Every human being has an irrevocable and guaranteed right to acquire, without obstacles, the knowledge and skills to ensure a dignified and autonomous life. A number of human rights conventions have also emphasized this.

Education is the basis for personal freedom in a democratic society and States have an international responsibility towards this. In the 20th century great progress was made worldwide to realize the right to education to the extent that at least basic education can be achieved by many people: they can read, write, calculate, and the number of children who do not have these basic skills is decreasing. This gives hope, but there are still many challenges in several countries and regions of the world where people even today do not have access to education.

In line with these concerns, the project Extension of Human Rights to Education was created as a grass-roots initiative by asserting that education is the right of all peoples and must be defended. It is being carried out by the Institute of Education and Culture of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena with Hochschule / University of Applied Sciences Koblenz, as cooperation partner, both member institutions of UNAI in Germany. Other relevant stakeholders like the Interdisciplinary Center for Research into Childhood and Society of the University of Wuppertal, the PoliTeknik Journal and the Association for All-Round Education are also part of this initiative.

The project brings together individuals across generations to exchange information about the situation of education in their societies, talk to each other and address education as a collective as well as a personal good. Together they find out what education means to them - beyond the possible demands of economic and political interests. The concept of education needs to be constantly rethought and expanded. This would require, in turn, the ability to look at the world critically and with a concern for social well-being.

The aforementioned project aims to reconsider the close relationship between education and freedom and how education can foster awareness on global issues, with an international perspective in mind. This is the project’s focus: re-examine and re-formulate the original article 26 of the UDHR. Education is a means to effectively and autonomously engage with one’s environment and is both an individual and a social process, and there must be safeguards ensuring its development in these aspects.

A redefinition of education from a human rights approach, in light of the current circumstances, will foster the actual implementation of the obligations derived from International Law on this critical component of individual and social well-being. You can click here to know more about the related #RightToEducation campaign of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and on this page, you can see the targets, indicators and progress achieved so far on the Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education.