Governments must focus not only on facilitating access to education to their citizens, but also on guaranteeing that they have the right to high quality learning without discrimination, a United Nations independent expert said today.
"We must make sure not just that an ever greater number of students gain access to primary education, but that governments ensure education is an enforceable right for their citizens, is of high quality, and provided equally without discrimination," said the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, in the wake of the first Global Education for All Meeting led by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on Friday.
First launched in Thailand in 1990, the Education for All is an international initiative which aims to bring the benefits of education to 'every citizen in every society.' It involves a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups and development agencies such as UNESCO, all committed to achieving six specific education goals by 2015.
The goals consist of: expanding early childhood care and education, providing free and compulsory primary education for all, promoting learning and life skills for young people and adults, increasing adult literacy by 50 per cent, achieving gender equality, and improving the quality of education.
"The right to education means more than just being able to attend school," Mr. Singh said. "Increasing access without ensuring the quality of teachers, curricula and schools will not improve our societies. We must also ensure schools are accessible for all students, including women, rural or economically disadvantaged students."
Mr. Singh called on governments to enact legislation to ensure minimum quality standards are set for teachers and educational curricula, and to address inequalities in education, particularly for girls, minorities and poor children. "States must take their international legal obligations seriously, and must ensure that their domestic legislation meets such obligations," he said.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Mr. Singh, are appointed in an honorary capacity by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.