What is the Human Right to Education?

The right to education ensures access to quality schools and to an education that is directed towards the full development of the human personality. NESRI uses six priority human rights principles in our work that are fundamental to guaranteeing the right to education and are of particular relevance to education reform efforts in the United States:

Individual Rights: Every individual child must have equal access to a quality education adapted to meet his or her needs.

Aims of Education: The aims of education must be directed toward the development of each child’s personality and full potential, preparing children to participate in society and to do work that is rewarding and reasonably remunerative, and to continue learning throughout life.

Dignity: Schools must respect the inherent dignity of every child creating an environment of respect and tolerance in the classroom, preventing practices and disciplinary policies that cause harm or humiliation to children, and promoting self-confidence and self-expression.

Equity: There must be equitable distribution of resources in education across communities according to need.

Non-Discrimination: The government must ensure that the human right to education “will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Participation: Students, parents and communities have the right to participate in decisions that affect their schools and the right to education.

The Right to Education is protected by:

There are also United Nations committees (“treaty bodies”) made up of experts that oversee the implementation of particular human rights treaties. These committees oversee the treaties by, among other things, receiving government reports on the implementation of the treaties, making comments to the government reports, and issuing general comments about the treaties or specific rights contained therein.

Both the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have issued general comments on education.
Additionally, United Nations Special Rapporteurs are appointed to investigate human rights issues in countries around the world. In October 2001, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education made a country visit to the United States and issued a report to the Human Rights Commission about education in the United States.
The Special Rapporteur came to New York City to visit public schools and hear testimony from advocates and parents.  Following her visit she wrote this report: 
Further Resources
  •  To see NESRI publications on the human right to education click here.
  •  To learn more about a human rights approach to education click here.
Media Coverage
December 15th, 2014 | Teachers Unite & Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York
June 20th, 2014 | Chalkbeat New York
June 3rd, 2014 | The Center for Public Integrity