Rights based education sector planning and accountability: RTEI at the GPE Financing Conference

February 9, 2018
by Allyson Krupar, Senior Associate

How can we create a world where the right to education is satisfied for all? Watch Tony Baker, Associate Director for Global Education at RESULTS Educational Fund, present about rights-based education sector planning and accountability at the 2018 Global Partnership for Education Financing Conference.

The GPE Financing Conference convened government officials and representatives from developing and donor countries, international organizations, private institutions, and civil society organizations to re-commit funding for and prioritize education worldwide, especially in international development. This presentation occurred on Partnership Day, where civil society organizations and other partners organized short sessions around the following themes: education financing, education advocacy, education for the future, equity and inclusion, and education in emergencies.


Most societies have iterated some form of the “golden rule” of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Hindu Vedas, the Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Koran—humanity’s oldest written sources deal with issues of duties, responsibilities, and rights.

After the horrors of World War II, the nations of the world came together and unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

In 1966, these were further enshrined in two treaties—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

As illustrated in red by the map behind me, almost all countries—166 of them—have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Among other things, the covenant obligates governments to provide free primary education and progressively free higher education beyond that.

50 years later, these basic obligations have not been met in most countries.

According to the latest data from UNESCO, 1 out of every 10 child is not in primary or lower secondary school in half of those countries.

When we look at available completion data, the lack of the right to education spreads, with 89 countries having 1 in 10 children not completing primary or lower secondary school.

And these countries highly correlate with those being supported by the Global Partnership for Education, with GPE placing its efforts where they’re needed the most.

We cannot wait any longer to fulfill fundamental human rights.  At RESULTS Educational Fund, we and our partners have launched a new initiative to close the gap between promises and reality.  The Right to Education Index is a global accountability initiative designed to monitor national progress towards the fulfillment of the right to education, working with governments, civil society, and others to accelerate it.  RTEI is not a top-down, desk review index; it is a capacity-building, research-to-advocacy program.

Building on years of work by the London-based Right to Education Project which worked with human rights experts and academics to develop a bank of indicators on the right to education, we’ve taken the 32 legally binding treaties and conventions that deal with the right to education, extrapolated 79 indicators related to government obligations, and put them into a questionnaire.

The questionnaire is completed by in-country civil society using national data, peer reviewed by national research institutions, and made available to governments for review.

Final results are used in reports and advocacy materials, which are used to support in-country advocacy campaigns on the right to education.

RTEI operates on a two-year project cycle, with the first year being research and data collection to complete the RTEI Questionnaire and the second year seeing support to a subset of partners to develop and implement in-country advocacy campaigns based on their findings.

Ultimately, all of this forms a platform for partnership and support to coordinated advocacy efforts to realize the right to education.

We piloted RTEI in 5 countries in 2015 and ran the first official round in 15 countries in 2016.

In 2017, the first year for RTEI advocacy, we worked with national education coalitions and civil society in Honduras, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Indonesia on issues like school re-entry for pregnant girls and young mothers in Tanzania, alternative discipline policies to end corporal punishment in Zimbabwe, rights-based budgeting for SDG4 in Palestine, and teacher training on inclusive education in Indonesia.

RTEI collaborates closely with the Global Campaign for Education, the global network of national education coalitions in more than 100 countries around the world.  These are the civil society groups who are increasingly having a seat at the national policy-making table in what GPE calls Local Education Groups.

And what we find is RTEI helping these groups strengthen their inputs in these policy processes and changing the dialogue from one of general civil society needs and demands to one of how to meet clear government obligations to the right to education as stipulated by the treaties and conventions that they’ve signed onto.

School fees as established by Zimbabwe’s Education Act and its education sector plan are not only detrimental to the poor but, as found by the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe, are in contravention to the international and regional conventions that the government of Zimbabwe has ratified.

In Honduras, Foro Dakar, the national education coalition there taking its name from the Education for All goals that were established here in Dakar in 2000, found that enrollment of children with disabilities was increasing but that two-thirds of schools were not pedagogically equipped to meet their needs.  Foro Dakar worked with teachers, civil society, the National Board of Education, and technicians of Honduras’ new education sector plan to address this situation.

While a development institution, this type of rights-based education sector planning, and the subsequent rights-based financing of education, is at the heart of GPE.  The first principle of GPE’s strategic plan is that education as a public good, a human right, and an enabler of other rights.

In fact, many of the right to education indicators being measured and monitored by RTEI correlate to those in GPE’s Results Framework.  Aspects like the quality of education sector plans, public expenditure on education, and the availability of trained teachers and essential learning resources are advocated by both, complimenting GPE seeking to make progress on the development agenda and civil society seeking to fulfill the human rights one.

We believe that the combination of these leverage points can make real change.  Gordon Brown is fond of calling education the “civil rights struggle of our generation.”  But it’s much more than that.  Human rights are the pinnacle of what we as humanity are seeking to achieve in our collective journey together—a world in which all basic needs of every man, woman, and child are met, allowing for prosperity and growth for all.

After millennia of articulating our duties and responsibilities to one another, some of these rights are becoming within reach.  We all know the obstacles in front of us, but I believe we are at an exciting time in history with the right institutions and platforms in place to move the needle on the right to education and act collectively to make it a reality.

I’m Tony Baker, Associate Director for Global Education at RESULTS Educational Fund, and I thank you for your time.

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