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What you need to know about the Convention against Discrimination in Education

19 April 2019

Since its adoption by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1960, the Convention against Discrimination in Education has been at the forefront of the Organization’s standard-setting instruments in the field of education. It has so far been ratified by 104 Member States and UNESCO is now urging the remaining countries to do so with its #RightToEducation campaign.

What is the Convention against Discrimination in Education?

The Convention reaffirms that education is not a luxury, but a fundamental human right. It highlights States' obligations to ensure free and compulsory education, bans any form of discrimination and promotes equality of educational opportunity. The treaty comprehensively covers the right to education and is the only one entirely dedicated to it. The Convention is recognized as a cornerstone of the Education 2030 Agenda and a powerful tool to advance inclusive and equitable quality education for all. 

What does the Convention guarantee?

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

The main provisions of the treaty include:

  • 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
  • Training opportunities for the teaching profession without discrimination.

The Convention also ensures:

  • 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.

Why ratify the Convention now?

As a standard-setting Organization, UNESCO encourages Members States to ratify normative instruments in order to achieve universal adherence to its norms and standards. This Convention is the first and only legally binding international treaty exclusively dedicated to the right to education and is considered to be a foundation of the Education 2030 Agenda.  

Ratifying the Convention:

  • Shows the adherence of the country to rights set forth by the Convention, including the fundamental principles of non-discrimination, equality of treatment and of educational opportunities
  • Ensures the respect of all rights laid down in the Convention
  • Joins the community of States that are already party to the Convention and adopt the same normative framework
  • Participates in the strengthening of international norms and standards in education
  • Gives higher visibility to the Convention, and raises awareness
  • The Convention does not admit any reservation, meaning that ratifying States cannot decide to exclude certain aspects or provisions from the legal effect of the Convention; therefore, the Convention is fully applicable to all its State Parties.

Read the full text of the Convention.