There is strong evidence that social protection systems can assist States in ensuring the enjoyment of at least minimum essential levels of the right to education enshrined in several instruments, such as Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Article 26 of the UDHR.

The right to education is unique in that it is both a human right but also a means to the realization of other human rights. As noted by the CESCR, the role of education as a tool for empowerment is substantial. Everyone shall have the right to education directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity. Furthermore through education, human rights and fundamental rights shall be strengthened; persons will be able to effectively participate in a free society; and understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups shall be promoted. Functioning educational institutions and programmes must available and sufficient and access must be given to everyone without discrimination. States should provide free and compulsory primary education; adequate secondary education in different forms and higher education on the basis of capacity, and take concrete steps to ensure that these are free; fundamental education for those who have not satisfied their basic learning needs; and to seek and overall developmental strategy for its school system which includes equal access to education and decent general working conditions of teachers.

Not only can education enable to development of social protection but social protection can also foster the realisation of the right to education. The provision of information can ensure the promotion and extension of social protection. As a concept, “social protection education” refers to the process by which, through the provision of information and instruction, people receive education and awareness about contingencies, social security issues and available services to ensure an adequate level of social protection of the population. It has been observed that countries which have achieved appropriate levels of social protection coverage for the population have also developed sophisticated educational programmes for citizens. Furthermore education is also known to help prevent the transmission of poverty along generations by improving access to the labour market and in particular encouraging formal employment. Social protection can also enable the realisation of the right to education. Where children do not attend school because they need to work or because they are hungry or malnourished, additional resources granted through social protection programmes can provide families with the necessary additional income and access to adequate health care and translate into increased school attendance. Cash transfer programmes made conditional on school attendance and/or regular health visits can also have this effect. In this regard, such programmes must also take a comprehensive approach and that adequate infrastructure is in place (such as school, roads, transportation mediums) to ensure the attainment of such goals. Finally, social protection can result in a reduction of the direct or indirect costs associating with access to school, increasing the demand in education.


Photo credit: “Education-Éducation-9” by DFTAD|MAECD (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).

Expert Commentaries

Are Conditional Cash Transfers Having an Impact on Achieving Access to Education? Some Answers from Argentina

The impact of Argentina’s Asignación Universal por Hijo Cash Transfer Programme on the right to education The conditions of poverty and exclusion that affect a great part of Latin America have led governments to create various social security programmes, directed primarily at the most vulnerable families and communities. Several governments, including those of Argentina, Colombia […]

Legal Instruments

Ley 25.273 de Creación de un sistema de inasistencias justificadas por razones de gravidez

Crea un régimen especial de inasistencias justificadas por razones de gravidez para alumnas que cursen los ciclos de enseñanza general básica, polimodal y superior no universitaria en establecimientos de jurisdicción nacional, provincial o municipal.

Ley 25.808 Modificación del articulo 1º de la ley 25.584

Prohibe en establecimientos de educación pública acciones que impidan el inicio o continuidad del ciclo escolar a alumnas embarazadas o madres en período de lactancia.

Legal Cases

Roma Students’ Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination in the Czech Republic

Participatory implementation of D.H. case promotes inclusion of Roma children in Czech schools In this case, applicants challenged the disproportionate classification of Roma school children in the Czech Republic as having special education needs as well as their segregation into schools for children with “Light Mental Disabilities”. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided […]

Equitable Education Funding in the United States

This case focused on whether school funding by the State of Kansas was equitable and adequate, as required under the relevant state constitutional provisions regulating the provision of education. Upon finding violations in connection with the equitable distribution of funds and the adequacy of such funds to ensure constitutionally required education, the State of Kansas […]

The Right to Equal Education in South Africa

Nature of the Case Delayed textbook delivery has plagued public schools in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province for several years. The Department of Basic Education and Limpopo Department of Education appealed a high court decision holding that their failure to ensure timely delivery of textbooks to learners in Limpopo public schools violated the learners’ constitutional […]

The Right to Sound Education in the City of New York

Nature of the Case Challenge against state school funding system on the basis of the Education Article of the New York Constitution (Article XI § 1). The case addressed a range of issues including, the constitutional right to a sound basic education, adequacy of school funding, budgetary allocations, and the nature of remedies. Summary In […]

Children’s welfare in Senegal

This case addresses the plight of as many as 100,000 children (known as talibés), who while attending Qur’anicschools (daaras) in Senegal, are forced by some instructors to beg in the streets, to secure their own survival and enrich the teachers. The children live away from their families, often in deplorable conditions, and are exposed to […]


Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: Global baseline report 2018

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are responsible for monitoring global progress towards water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. The global effort to achieve sanitation and water for all by 2030 is extending beyond the household to include institutional settings, such as schools, healthcare facilities […]

Engaging Employers in Apprenticeship Opportunities: Making it Happen Locally

This joint OECD-ILO publication provides guidance on how local and regional governments can foster business-education partnerships in apprenticeship programmes and other types of work-based learning, drawing on case studies across nine countries. There has been increasing interest in apprenticeships which combine on the job training with classroom-based study, providing a smooth transition from school to […]

General Comment No. 13 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: The right to education

The human right to education is recognized in several instruments under international law. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights deals more comprehensively than any other instrument with this right. Pursuant to article 13 of the Covenant, States parties recognize “the right of everyone to education”. The human right to education is of […]

Essential Content on the Right to Education

The right to education appears in more than 40 standards —declarations and conventions— of the international system, under the aegises of the United Nations, UNESCO, and the International Labour Organization. The principle norms on the right to education are set by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (art. 13 and 14), […]

Corpus sur le droit à l’education 2

Ce recueil de normes internationales regroupe les dispositions figurant dans les normes sur le droit à l’éducation sous des concepts pris des instruments internationaux des Nations Unies, de l’UNESCO et de l’OIT. Cette étude concerne donc exclusivement le système universel. Il a pour finalité de donner une vision exhaustive du droit international sur l’éducation et […]

Corpus of the Right to Education

This compilation of international standards contains the provisions which appear in the right to education norms under concepts taken from the international instruments of the United Nations, UNESCO and ILO. Thus, this study concerns exclusively the universal system. Its aim is to give an exhaustive vision of the international right on education and also facilitate […]

Adolescent Girls and Education: challenges, evidence and gaps

In recognition of the criticality of adolescence, the severity of deprivation adolescent girls face, and the opportunities we have to support girls, there has been considerable recent interest in better understanding adolescent girls’ lives. Of particular interest have been the pathways out of poverty for girls, with education being one of the main avenues. Access […]

OPERA in Practice: strengthening implementation of strategic litigation in South Africa

Opera in Practice: Strengthening Implementation of Strategic Litigation in South Africa is a case study reflecting the Center for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Legal Resources Center’s collaborative efforts to monitor, and hold the government accountable for, the implementation of court orders in the Madzodzo v Department of Basic Education case. The project […]

Partnership Schools for Liberia: a critical review

This report reviews and analyses documents related to the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) pilot. It particularly highlights the Baseline Report conducted by Innovations for Poverty Actions (IPA) (2017), and the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE) monitoring report (2017). The analysis focuses on three key areas: transparency and accountability, students and teachers, […]

Ignored and Unequal: Roma Access to the Right to Housing and Education in Turkey

Turkey’s Roma population and similar social groups such as Abdal have long been among the country’s most marginalized communities. Despite being guaranteed in both domestic and international law, in practice for many Roma the right to education and housing remain out of reach: however, limited data on the disparities and discrimination they face has contributed […]

Social Protection and Human Rights