UNESCO's Convention against Discrimination in Education

The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education occupies the foremost place among UNESCO standard-setting instruments in the field of education. It is the first international instrument which covers the right to education extensively and has a binding force in international law.

It is recognized as a cornerstone of Education 2030 Agenda and represents a powerful tool to advance SDG4.

Its conceptual strength is evidenced by its recognition under modern international law, as well as the frequency with which its main elements are mentioned in other instruments relating to education adopted by the United Nations.

This legally binding instrument encompasses the idea that education is not a luxury, but a fundamental right and it underscores the state obligation to proscribe any form of discrimination in education while promoting equality of educational opportunity.

States Parties to the Convention are under the obligation to implement the right to education as it is elaborated including, among other provisions, the obligation of the state to provide free and compulsory education.

Main provisions:

  • Primary education free and compulsory
  • Secondary education in its different forms, generally available and accessible to all
  • Higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity
  • Equivalent standards of education in all public educational institutions of the same level and conditions relation to quality
  • Opportunities for continuing education (fundamental education)
  • Training opportunities for the teaching profession without discrimination

The Convention also provides:

  • Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • The liberty of parents to choose for their children’s education in conformity with their moral and religious beliefs;
  • The right of members of national minorities to carry on their own educational activities

This Convention, which does not admit any reservation, has so far been ratified by 101 Member States and is currently enjoying renewed momentum.