Katarina Tomaševski: The State of the Right to Education Worldwide


[29 March 2007] This report, the last of Katarina Tomaševski following her untimely death, concerns the current status of right to education questioning whether the right to free and compulsory education, loudly and universally proclaimed, is being quietly and systematically betrayed.

Why don’t we have a global strategy for education? When is education not free? What would it take to make it free? Why should we care?

The State of the Right to Education Worldwide summarises the shortcomings of global educational promises and examines how the right to education fares globally. It highlights the abyss between the domestic policies of wealthy creditor and donor governments which keep compulsory education free, and their external policies which have made it for-fee.

The report features:

  •  170 developing and transitioning countries divided into 6 geographical regions
  • 31 tables highlighting the key findings derived from country-by-country surveys
  • 6 global blueprints for education
  • A comparison of international law versus global targets 1990-2005
  • A synopsis of differences between human rights law and global targets

It contains disturbing statistics:

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa primary education is only really free in 3 countries; in 7 countries over 30% of children never even start school.
  • In post-communist states (such as Eastern Europe or Central Asia) free education is now virtually non-existent; teachers’ salaries are often below official poverty benchmarks.
  • In developing and transition states 35% of the cost of education is privately funded; in industrialised countries the figure is 8%.
  •  Only 2% of educational funds come from international aid.

It exposes that:

  •  The right to education is taking a back seat to fiscal sustainability.
  •  Many governments and intergovernmental agencies are not committed to education  as a human right.
  • The boundary between public and private education has been obliterated by conditioning access to public school by payments.
  • Charging for education which should be free is a global phenomenon.
  • More than twenty different charges may be imposed in primary school.
  • Resolve and resources are required to realize the right to free and compulsory education.

It calls for:

  • Acknowledgement that the key problem in ensuring universal education is not lack of public resources (as evidenced in high and increasing military expenditures) but the global political will to tackle economic exclusion from education.
  • Reaffirmation of education as a public responsibility and elimination of financial barriers so that all children, no matter how poor they are, can go to school.
  • An end to contradictory policies and institutional rivalries between global educational organisations.
  • A realistic monitoring of the cost of education imposed on families and children themselves, hidden behind the confusing vocabulary of ‘fee-free’ rather than free education.
  • Forms of international cooperation that facilitate, rather than hinder, free and compulsory education for all children.
  • Immediate and concerted prioritization of universal free and compulsory education so that all children stay in education until the minimum age of employment – at least 14.

The report is Katarina Tomaševski’s (1953-2006) final call to action before her untimely death on 4 October 2006. It should act as a wake up call to all those concerned with the right to education and poverty reduction. You can read and interact with the report at www.katarinatomasevski.com

For more information or comments contact [email protected]


pdf: http://www.crin.org/docs/Rights to education globalreport.pdf


    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.