Looking globally: the future of education
Looking globally: the future of education

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Looking globally: the future of education

2.4 The rights-based model

Many international conventions and declarations enshrine the right to education. For example, Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948) states that everyone has the right to education which should be free in the elementary stage. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF, 1989) extended this right by stating that all children should be eligible to go to secondary school. From this perspective, education is a right – that is, a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something, and an end in itself, rather than the means for achieving other ends. As such, governments should be expected by their citizens to find resources to offer a quality education to each child.

Activity 3 Exploring the rights-based model

Allow approximately 30 minutes

Watch this two-minute animation in which we outline the rights-based model for you. It is worth watching the animation two or three times to ensure you have a good understanding of the model so that you can consider its implications for education. You should make notes as you watch, as you will return to reflect on this model later in the course.

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The rights model declares that education is everyone’s right. Every child worldwide, regardless of gender or abilities, should have access to education. Education is viewed as having value in itself rather than for what it achieves.
Whilst governments may sign up to this, not all will take the steps necessary to achieve it. For example, there may not be sufficient buildings to house the schools or enough trained teachers. Also, where there is conflict, drought, or other trauma, the right to access education may be a low priority.
A rights-based education system must seek out learners, acknowledge what the learner brings, provide a conducive environment for learning, consider the content, and enhance learning processes.
The top-down approach of the rights-based model may result in an education system that is set apart from the local context. For example, girls may be exposed to violence as they try to attend school. Poverty also may be a barrier to a child taking up education.
A quality education must be responsive to the lived realities of learners and educators in those contexts. Accepting education as a moral right also has wider implications, as then everybody, not just families, should be ensuring that education is available to every child globally.
The rights model has much to recommend it. But there must be far more than rhetoric to ensure that young people can successfully access their rights through education.
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Think about:

  • What are the important aspects of the rights-based model for education?

More about the rights-based model of education

Agencies such as UNESCO and UNICEF base their programmes on this model. At school level, the rights-based model is acknowledged by a concern with democratic schools, learner participation, removal of corporal punishment and involvement of the local community in the school.

Critics of the rights-based approach argue that despite nations and states saying that they accept every child has a right to education, many make no attempt to turn such aspirations into reality. The model may be interpreted as simply stating that it is a child’s right to receive a decent education but may pay insufficient attention to inclusion, diversity and equity, and the model does not of itself enable detailed planning to take account of specific socio-cultural contexts and the needs of particular learners.


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