The Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education took place on July 26th and 27th during the 41th session of Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In this session, the Special Rapporteur’s report on the right to education and in particular on the increase of private actors’ s participation on the field of education had been discussed.
In this regard, we at OIDEL were concerned about the possible interpretation that states could face significant limitations in their relationship with schools in the private sector, in particular about the ways of funding non-governmental schools. These doubts were first communicated to the Special Rapporteur in private in order for the latter to clarify some points that could be problematic from a Human Rights perspective.
During the debate, the Special Rapporteur made a brief introduction remembering the state’s obligation to guarantee access to public, free and quality education for everyone. This aim is stated in goal number 4 of the 2030 Agenda.
Furthermore, Ms. Bally Barry showed her concerns about the increase of private actors in the field of education. In this sense, she insisted on the fact that states have to establish a framework to regulate the participation of these private actors. She also highlighted that her recommendations are inspired by the Abidjan Principles.
Even if states have to give priority to funding public education, the Special Rapporteur recalled that this obligation cannot imply the violation of the parent’s right to choose for their children other different schools from the ones offered by the state. The state has to respect this freedom and has to guarantee the right to create new non-governmental schools by civil society. The Special Rapporteur stressed the importance of this freedom in order to ensure protection of religious, philosophical and pedagogical beliefs of parents.
After the introduction, delegations of different states intervened. Many of them thanked the Special Rapporteur for her work and they informed about the current situation of the right to education in their own countries. Also, many of them emphasized the use of public-private partnerships as a way of supporting education of children by the non-governmental institutions, in order to offer a better educational system overall.
Moreover, many delegations asked for examples of best practices on how states can form the most effective public-private partnerships while adhering to human rights principles.
After these interventions, NGO’s and members of the civil society had been given the floor. Director Ignasi Grau spoke for OIDEL and also on behalf of several other NGO’s.
In the oral statement, after thanking the Special Rapporteur for her work, OIDEL reclaimed some clarifications. In particular, OIDEL insisted on the importance of the role of non-governmental schools in order to achieve a pluralistic educational system and in order to protect the rights of minorities. Some elements of the report have to be clarified so they will not be misinterpreted as limiting the right to education and the freedom to choose. You can read the oral statement of OIDEL in this link.
The debate concluded with a summary statement of the special rapporteur. She acknowledged the important role of non-governmental and non-profit schools, especially in those places where the states do not have the resources to fulfil their obligations. In particular, Ms. Bolly Barry praised the strategies developed by countries such as France (with institutions as “l’école sous contrat”) or Tunisia where public-private partnerships have been launched, contributing to offer higher quality education.
It’s vitally important to underline the distinction made by the special rapporteur to close the debate. Ms. Bolly Barry clarified that, when she mentions private actors whose practices imply a threat to right to education, she exclusively refers to private mercantilists and the for-profit sector – not civil society’s schools, including religious schools. This way, the special rapporteur affirmed the importance of state support for civil society in the field of education in order to achieve the best posible realization of the right to education.
Amelia Suárez Picazo