The right to education: examining its meaning and implications




Karmel, Joe

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Philosophers and others have debated for centuries about the concept of “rights” - what they are, where they came from, how they evolved, on what authority they proceed, and in what formulations. Because rights express values and are not simply rules governing an immutable status quo, there will always be debates over some aspects of human rights. It is precisely because of this uncertainty that the international community, in 1948, through the General Assembly of the United Nations, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a standard of measurement for the formulation and interpretation of human rights and freedoms. Acknowledged within the Declaration is the universal right to education. One reason for its acknowledgment is the crucial role that education plays in the promotion of equality and the full realization of all other human rights. A second reason concerns the growing appreciation of the relationship that exists between education and increased social and economic benefits. However, despite its pivotal role as a multiplier of human rights and socio-economic benefits, little has actually been written on the right to education to elaborate upon its direction or define its boundaries. Most of what is documented on the right to education comes from legal and political sources, through the voices of judges, lawyers, statesmen, and politicians. Educators, who are generally held responsible for its actual promotion and implementation, have to date contributed very little to our knowledge of the right to education. Clearly this must change. To prevail in practice human rights require not only articulation but interpretation, validation, legislation, enforcement by rule of law and, finally, to be conceived of in a positive formulation. Thus, rights have to be made, and the purpose of this study is to invite educators into the conversation to assist in the making of the right to education by contributing to its interpretations and validating its claims. This inquiry unfolds in twelve chapters. Chapter 1 sets an autobiographical context and includes my own memories and experiences interpreting the right to education as well as the research questions and methodology. Chapter 2 examines the concept of human rights, their evolution, and the basis for their authority. Chapter 3 examines existing interpretations of the right to education in the literature. Chapter 4 examines the meaning of education in the right to education. Chapter 5 examines the compulsory nature of the right to education and the basis for its distinct status among other human rights. Chapters 6 through 8 examine the concepts of equality and equal educational opportunity and their relationship to the promotion of human rights and the right to education. Chapters 9 and 10 examine the ends of the right to education as proclaimed in the Declaration, contrasting these ends with the goals set out by the Ministry of Education in the Province of British Columbia. Chapter 11 examines parental rights to choose the most suitable kind of education in the context of claiming the right to a free education for their children. The final chapter represents an attempt to make sense of the inquiry and the efforts and contributions of research participants and researchers in the literature towards increasing our understanding of the interpretations and implications of the right to education.



Human Rights, Right to Education, Rights in Education, Equality, Equal