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Tw Human Rights
Education and

Human Rights

Key message

Education is a human right. All children have a right to free, compulsory, primary education, without discrimination.

Most governments have also accepted their legal obligation to gradually make secondary education free and accessible to all. Education unlocks other rights by providing the knowledge and skills for everyone to advocate for themselves and all other human beings in the world. Human rights education teaches us to value human dignity, diversity, respect, peace, justice, and global citizenship. It is without a doubt a key part of creating a more just and sustainable world.
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Key challenges
  • More than 258 million children and youth are currently denied their right to education by being out of school. 
    (UNESCO, 2019)
  • It is important to ensure all young people understand that education is a human right that applies to everyone. A recent survey of UK youth revealed that 89% of respondents aged 14-30 believe that education is a basic human right; however, only 44% strongly agreed that refugees deserve this right. Additionally, only 62% of boys aged 16-18 said they strongly believe that girls and boys have an equal right to education.
    (Theirworld, 2020)
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  • Learning about human rights in school encourages active civic engagement later in life. Evidence from 88,000 adolescents from 27 countries shows that students with more knowledge of human rights were more politically efficacious and more likely to support joining human rights organisations and other social justice-oriented groups.
    (Torney-Purta et al., 2008)
  • Education increases support for democracy, a crucial means for the protection of human rights. In 18 Sub-Saharan African countries, those with a primary education are 1.5 times more likely to express support for democracy, compared with people with no education. Those with a secondary education are three times more likely.
    (GEM, 2017)
  • Education leads to more respect for equity as well as the rights of women and other marginalised groups. A cross-national survey of men in Brazil, Croatia, India, Mali, Mexico, and Rwanda found that men with at least a secondary education are more likely to have gender-equitable attitudes and practices than those without.
    (ICRW, 2011)
  • Human rights education for adults can be transformational. In Turkey, 93% of participants in a human rights education for women programme reported higher self-confidence and 90% reported better problem-solving skills; 63% said they now had the ability to stop domestic violence; 88% said they had become resource people in their communities for other women, and one-third of participants ended up joining a civil society group.
    (Amado, 2005)
  • Human rights education helps increase empathy, respect, engagement, critical thinking, and interpersonal competencies. A three-year evaluation of a child’s rights education initiative in the UK shows improvements in social relationships, student behaviours, academic achievement, and acceptance of their responsibilities towards protecting human rights.
    (Covell & Howe, 2007)
  • Pedagogy matters. Data from 38 countries that participated in the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study in 2009 show that students in classrooms that encourage open democratic discussions are 5-8% more likely to endorse equal rights for all ethnic groups.
    (Sandoval-Hernandez et al., 2018)
  • Education empowers individuals to advocate for themselves. In 54 countries, women with only a primary education are four times more likely to lack control over household resources compared with women with a secondary education.
    (Sperling & Winthrop, 2015)
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Key talking points
  • Education is a human right.
  • Education unlocks knowledge of human rights and enables full participation in economic, social, cultural, civil and political life.
  • About 260 million children every year are denied the right to education.
  • Countries have the obligation to protect, respect, and fulfill the right to education, ensuring the 4As of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability.
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