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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, 2020)
  • 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)
  • There are multiple barriers to enforcing children's right to education. These include (but are not limited to) funding; a shortage of trained teachers; discrimination; gender inequality; conflict; malnutrition.
    (Global Citizen, 2019)
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Make the case
  • Every child has the right to education. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990, particularly Articles 28 and 29, states that a child has a right to an education as well as detailing the quality and content of this education.
    (UN, 1990)
  • The next generation is the future of human rigihts. Engaging more with younger individuals on global human rights will help ensure the relevance of multilateral cooperation as well as domestic buy-in of human rights commitments in the long term. Youth-led movements can help bridge the gap between local constituencies and international policymakers.
    (Chatham House, 2021)
  • 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. Education is an opportunity to challenge discriminatory gender norms. For example, educated men are found to more likely treat women and men equally and support gender equality policies and are more likely to condemn gender-based violence.
    (UNESCO, 2022)
  • Human rights education helps increase empathy, respect, engagement, and interpersonal competencies. In a study of 10 UK schools, it was reported that pupils were more outward-looking and had greater knowledge and respect for human rights following the adoption of a human rights approach. It was also noted that children showed an improvement in well-being and engagement, and in a reduction in racist incidents and homophobic language.
    (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2020)
  • 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 opinion
Kofi Anna
Kofi Annan
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.
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Key talking points
  • Education is a fundamental human right.
  • Education unlocks knowledge of human rights and enables full participation in economic, social, cultural, civil and political life.
  • About 258 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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