“9 lessons we should retain of the last report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to education on education as a cultural right”

Last week the new report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education of the United Nations became public. The Special Rapporteur on the Right to education, Koumbou Boly Barry, is the highest ranked independent expert on this topic. This is an annual report that the Special Rapporteur drafts to present in the meeting in the council, which will take place from the 21st of June to 9th of July 2021. This report has an enormous influence in the debates of the United Nations about education and is determinant to some extent. This report is crucial as it focuses again on education in one essential feature of education, as a right that goes beyond the skills. This new approach implies considering education as a common good, hearing all the actors, and enabling a pluralistic educational system. Here you have the nine main lessons of this report: 

  1. The right to education is a cultural right: We understand the right to education as the right to have access to the cultural resources needed to develop one’s own identity, and, thanks to this, to be able to have relationships worthy of mutual recognition and face the challenges of our world. 
  2. “Culture” includes all disciplines: Culture goes beyond what we have popularly heard last years: folklore and arts. Culture also includes languages, religion, social sciences, human rights… All these disciplines contribute to ensure the development of the personality and the understanding of our surroundings. 
  3. International institutions’ duty is to set the objectives of the right to education: These must ensure that educational institutions and programs are culturally available, that they are accessible without any discrimination, that educational contents and forms are acceptable for students and parents, and that the education is adaptable to the different changes and needs of society. 
  4. State’s responsibility is to recognise education as a common good: As other common goods, States must manage education so that it reaches everyone in the community. This approach to education as a common good implies that states should guarantee the right to education, but not as the only actors, but in collaboration with the rest of the actors, listening and considering what education communities have to say and which are their needs, including parents and institutions. Each actor (international institutions, States, local authorities, teachers, parents and students) has different responsibilities, and their contribution is necessary for a holistic realization of the society.
  5. Local institutions must adapt the objectives of the right to education to local needs: These institutions are more likely to know better the needs of each community, therefore, they must have a degree of autonomy to be able to set educational projects that meet the specific cultural values. They also must ensure teachers receive the necessary training so that they can provide an inclusive and non-discriminatory education.
  6. Teachers and students should ensure an inclusive space for learning: Schools must be a place where every piece of culture is respected as part of the wealth of the community, and teachers and students must make sure this is possible. The classes should be a space where opinions can be expressed, where issues are discussed and where students interact with each other, accepting themselves and others, without discrimination, and can access, use, and contribute to the cultural resources needed to develop their identity.
  7. Educational pluralism is a cornerstone for cultural diversity: By respecting the freedom of parents to choose schools according to their convictions and the freedom of private institutions to establish educational institutions, we are granting cultural diversity. 
  8. Private schools allow diversity in educational life: Private schools are also part of the education ecosystem, and these are the reflection of students’ diversity, as they respond to their demand. For this reason, public action should respect educational freedoms and adopt measures such as financing private schools.
  9. The autonomy for educational institutions and the decentralization of the educational system is crucial for the achievement of the new cultural perspective: the achievement of the new cultural perspective requires of a degree of decentralization, so local authorities can protect local cultural resources and a degree of autonomy for educational institutions, so they can set up educational projects according to the needs of local communities.

To know more about this, here you have the link to of the whole report: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/47/32 

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