This report presents important new findings on the right to education from citizen-led research in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nepal. Unlike most such studies it is the product of research and analysis by children, parents, teachers and community organisations who have actively scrutinised the performance of their local schools against core dimensions of the right to education. The process has helped to deepen people’s engagement as citizens in holding their government schools and their public education systems to account.
Ten areas are highlighted where the right to education has been undermined and promises have been broken. Unnecessary constraints on government spending mean too many children are out of school and too many costs are passed on to parents. Girls and children with disabilities face particular disadvantages, including violence. Infrastructure is often inadequate, governance systems are often weak and not inclusive and teachers often face overwhelming class sizes, making it hard for children to learn.
These findings will be no surprise to people familiar with the challenges faced by under-funded public education systems. But it makes a huge difference when citizens on the frontline are raising these issues and calling for change.
Rather than this report leading to disillusionment with public education, it puts forwards positive solutions to ensure that government systems can deliver on the right to education. Governments need to increase education financing by increasing shares of the national budget spent on education and by increasing the national budget overall. Carrying out simple tax reforms by ending harmful tax incentives is a focus that could make a transformational difference in each country.
Increasing the share and size of the budget will not be enough if the sensitivity of spending is not also increased. This report flags the importance of investing in education for equity purposes, for example to end the disadvantages faced by girls and children with disabilities, and to ensure that professional teachers are well trained and valued. There is also a need for greater scrutiny of education spending to ensure better governance systems are in place, budgets are tracked and resources are spent appropriately and effectively.
When citizens actively engage in building their own evidence base and mobilise to demand increases in the size, share, sensitivity and scrutiny of education budgets for gender-responsive public schools, the right to education becomes more than a promise.
The right to education cannot just feature in distant conventions and treaties. It needs to be transferred into the minds and actions of citizens everywhere.