On December 3, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate 24 January as the International Day of Education. It called upon all Member States, the United Nations, international and regional organizations, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academic institutions, the private sector, individuals and other stakeholders to commemorate the International Day of Education in an appropriate manner and to continue to consider strengthening international cooperation in support of all Member States' efforts to achieve Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Education is one of the fundamental human rights enshrined in many international human rights instruments, for example in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, articles 10, 11 and 13 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, articles 30, 43 and 45 of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It is indeed regrettable that despite all these international instruments and the numerous conferences and meetings of the United Nations Education Transformation Summit, held most recently in New York in September 2022, recent statistics indicate that 258 million children and young people are still out of school, 617 million children and adolescents cannot read or perform basic calculations; fewer than 40 per cent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa have completed secondary education, as well as nearly four million children, boys and girls in asylum camps who are not in school, and 771 million illiterate people, which is a flagrant violation of everyone's right to education.
The right to education has become a "public good", as the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Professor Kishore Singh, pointed out. "The exponential growth of private education must be regulated by Governments to safeguard education as a public good".
“Governments must make every effort to strengthen their public education systems, rather than allowing or supporting private providers; for-profit education should not be allowed in order to safeguard the noble cause of education,” Mr. Singh noted
We at the Geneva Institute for Human Rights draw Governments' attention to the fact that increasing numbers of private schools and universities are increasing inequality, marginalization and discrimination in societies where poor and marginalized groups are often excluded from enrolment, and that the State is the guarantor and the entity that ensures education for all, which is a fundamental human right and a noble cause.
We at the Geneva Institute for Human Rights say that the provision of free basic education is not only a fundamental obligation of Governments to be enshrined in constitutions and constitutional texts; but also a moral imperative while respecting the fundamental principles of the United Nations system of social justice and equality. We hope that Governments will support education as a public good and address education for "profit" in order to preserve the noble cause of education.
The Geneva Institute of Human Rights, on the occasion of International Day of Education, reminds Governments, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions all around the world of the Incheon Declaration entitled "Education by 2030: towards equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all", adopted by the World Education Forum in 2015 in Incheon, South Korea, which aims to mobilize all countries and partners and provide guidance on the effective implementation of Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals and the achievement of the relevant goals on education for all, including for women, girls and persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, stateless persons, internally displaced persons, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.
In conclusion, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights appeals to all Governments to fulfil their basic commitments to provide high-quality primary education free of charge to all and to recognize the great benefits to their economies and societies when universal education is available to all, at all levels.
Geneva 24 January 2023