Redefining the Educational Form: Peace Education through Escuela Nueva

The following article is from the latest newsletter from the Escuela Nueva Foundation

Redefining the Educational Form: Peace Education through Escuela Nueva

Matthias Rüst

Consultant for Peace Education at Fundación Escuela Nueva, Colombia

In his article The Substance of Peace Education, Magnus Haavelsrud makes a case to analyze peace education through the lenses of three major components: form (pedagogy), content and structure. Introducing and relating the three components to each other, he suggests that “some peace educators seem to judge only one or two of the three components as important. Thus, it is not difficult to find peace education projects which are restricted to a change in the content of education.”

The 2011 report “Peace Education: State of the Field and Lessons Learned from USIP Grantmaking“ by the United States Institute for Peace (which was discussed in issue #89 of the GCPE newsletter) seems to follow the same argument. After an introduction defining the general field as such, the three ensuing sections entitled Developing Instructional ContentPreparing a New Cadre of Peace Educators andMainstreaming Peace Education visibly refer to the different dynamics and challenges encountered in terms of content, form and structure, respectively. There seems to be a consensus in analysis that the elaboration of instructional content, apparently the least difficult intervention, has been widely predominant, and that the further development of the field of peace education must go hand in hand with a stronger focus on educational form and organizational structure.

The case of the Escuela Nueva pedagogical model from Colombia is of great interest here. It is not a peace education initiative or project, and actually the term itself has probably not been sufficiently made explicit in its 35 years of existence. Instead, the Escuela Nueva model is a thorough pedagogical reform inspired by the international New School Movement that was designed in 1976 to provide complete primary education as well as increase the quality, equity, and effectiveness of rural Colombian schools.

This pedagogical model is not just like any other initiative that seeks to provide quality education for all. Instead, Escuela Nueva stands out due to a series of significant methodological shifts and innovations. The character of these innovations indicates that, from its beginning, the Escuela Nueva model sought to not only improve but also humanize education, and through this, to humanize society at large and contribute to building a Culture of Peace.

However, instead of “entering” peace education from the content component like many other initiatives, Escuela Nueva’s main pedagogical innovation is a radical redefinition of the educational form, supported by a significantly more peace-enhancing organizational structure. It advocates and implements a participatory methodology that fully transforms the learning process and classroom interaction. The following highly interdependent principles and tools explain the essence of this approach:

Cooperative learning and active, social construction of knowledge: Active, participatory, personalized and cooperative learning in small groups is the centerpiece of the Escuela Nueva methodology. Learning guides, designed and structured to promote dialogue, interaction, as well as individual work, work in pairs and in groups, facilitate the children’s study of the different subjects. There is a focus on the development of processes that helps assure that the knowledge that the students construct is the result of the mental reflection and higher level thinking that has taken place while working on the different group activities. This approach allows the students to participate actively in the acquisition of knowledge, express their own points of view, listen to and respect those of the others, make decisions, develop autonomy and ownership, and discuss and share their knowledge.

Shift in the teacher’s role to guide and facilitate: Collaborative group work and self-paced, child-centered learning requires a new role for the teachers. They are no longer “the source of knowledge” as is the case in conventional schools. Instead, they assume the role of guides and facilitators. This change of role relies, in turn, on the organization of the classroom into small groups and the methodological structure of the guides which foster a learning process based on dialogue and interaction, practice and application. This makes it possible for the student to really be in the center of the educational process and fosters horizontal relationships between the teacher and the students.

Student governments as democracy in practice: Unlike in other educational systems, the student government in the Escuela Nueva model is not merely a representative body; it is a curricular strategy that encourages the students’ affective, social and moral development by means of experiential group activities. The student government carries a lot of responsibility in the management of the daily tasks at school, and solutions for many of the problems, challenges, and difficulties encountered are directly pursued by its diverse committees. In this respect, the student government constitutes a tool for real transformation of school life in the constant search for an ever growing and more sustainable peace and harmony.

These innovations were only possible due to a transformation of teacher training strategies. Without exception, teacher training takes place in participatory workshops that replicate the methodology of the model itself, and their primary objective is to bring about a change of attitude on the part of the teachers. This is shown by the testimony of Carlos Alberto Carmona Lancheros, a teacher in Colombia’s Coffee region: “In my case, I was first teaching in a conventional school, then worked in an office and almost seven years ago started teaching with Escuela Nueva. Today I can say that for no reason I would ever go back to the conventional school model. Using the Escuela Nueva model our work as teachers is truly humane and inclusive. It allows the children to dream of a better world based on their own contributions.”

Through the direct application of the new pedagogical strategy, an alternative understanding of the educational process and the teachers’ role in it is cultivated among the teachers and the principals. The importance of this approach has also been pointed out in the USIP report mentioned before, affirming that “[p]eace education efforts that are solely focused on creating new textbooks and materials miss the critical aspect of the work, which is to prepare educators who themselves model the values of peace and can create a peaceful classroom. The most successful programs are where the mindset of the teacher and the relationships in the learning community are transformed.”1

The Escuela Nueva model, thus, considers peace education not as an “additional subject” at the periphery of the conventional curriculum. Rather, it unlocks empathy and other social skills, promotes peaceful coexistence and an approach to positive peace through its inherent nature. It takes distance from the conventional school that is based on memorization, authoritarianism, and the transmission of information to foment a focus on child-centered learning. This conception permeates all different elements of Escuela Nueva and is the key to the development of peace-enhancing knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and behavior.

Several national and international studies have highlighted the strong positive impact of Escuela Nueva on generating peaceful and democratic attitudes and behaviors. Most interestingly, this impact is not only sustainable in time with Escuela Nueva alumni participating with a higher probability in various voluntary organizations or collaborating more constructively with local authorities. It also causes a strong positive effect on the students’ families and communities. Intra-familial violence as a way to punish or reprimand children is being reduced, and parents participate more actively in the organization of committees to resolve problems that affect the community. The model has, thus, also proved very effective for peacebuilding at the community level, using the school as “entry point” into communities suffering from high levels of social or even armed conflict.

The model has been adapted by the Fundación Escuela Nueva to fit the needs of diverse population groups in both rural and urban areas, and has been applied with great success in peaceful as well as non-peaceful contexts. As a result, the Escuela Nueva model has impacted national policy in Colombia. It has also acted as an inspirational model for education reforms worldwide and has been visited by more than 40 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia (see Fundación Escuela Nueva´s website for a list of countries).

Resuming, the Escuela Nueva model yields scientific results not only improving academic achievements, but also generating democratic and peace-enhancing skills, behaviors and attitudes, and has successfully managed to scale up and generate a multiplier effect, both nationally and internationally (to mention only two of the main strategic challenges presented by the USIP report). It incorporates in its design and implementation peace-relevant content, form and structure, thus providing an effective strategy for peace education that successfully addresses the fundamental challenges mentioned in the literature on the subject. The upcoming publication entitled Peace Education in Escuela Nueva will provide many more details about most of the aspects mentioned within this article, especially about the relevant research findings as well as specific success stories in the promotion of a Culture of Peace.

Finally, we have also identified interesting challenges for the development, deepening and expansion of peace education within the Escuela Nueva model. One point refers precisely to the task of making the dimension of peace education more explicit, a long process within which we have only gone some first steps. For this reason Fundación Escuela Nueva seeks to implement several peace education projects, among them a recollection of best practices developed by Escuela Nueva teachers and the elaboration of a peace-focused teacher training tool based on the Escuela Nueva methodology. Beyond that, further research is necessary to identify which elements of Escuela Nueva are the most relevant and effective in contributing to a Culture of Peace. For all these efforts we are actively seeking alliances with other institutions, agencies and international organizations that share our vision and desire to transform education to make it a vehicle for peace and harmony for humankind.

Resources and References:

  • Fundación Escuela Nueva Volvamos a la Gente, Peace Education in Escuela Nueva, by Matthias Rüst, Bogota, Colombia, 2012.
  • HAAVELSRUD, Magnus, The Substance of Peace Education, Department of Education, Norwegian University of Technology and Science, Trondheim, Norway. An earlier version of this paper was published in UNICEF: Development Education School Series, No 6, Geneva, 1979 and in International Educator, Vol 10, No 3, 1995: 29 – 33.
  • USIP, Peace Education: State of the Field and Lessons Learned from USIP Grantmaking, by Mari Fitzduff and Isabella Jean, United States of America, 2011.

Political Violence and Intimidation Against Teachers in Zimbabwe

Having been a teacher myself, but only been threatened by drunk parents or wayward adolescents,it is difficult to comprehend the pressure that many teachers are put under, just for doing their job.

In Northern Tanzania teachers can be threatened just for trying to help girls achieve well at the end of their primary years (parents want to get them married early). In Colombia teachers in some areas have risked their lives to teach in Escuela Nueva schools where they are in the middle of battles between FARC and the military. In Afghanistan teachers may be killed for encouraging girls to attend school. The report below outlines the sort of intimidation that teachers in Zimbabwe have been subject to:


Political Violence and Intimidation Against Teachers in Zimbabwe ((Research and Advocacy Unit)

This report is a follow-up of a report published earlier in February titled, “Every School has a Story to Tell: Teachers experience with elections in Zimbabwe”. Whilst the first report is largely given in summary form, recording the violations that teachers have experienced since 2000, this present report gives deeper understanding to the violations and puts them in a global perspective. The report feeds into a broad campaign to promote the Right to Education by calling for the criminalisation of attacks on education and educational institutions. The report bridges the gap and provides knowledge of the existence and extent of attacks on education in Zimbabwe.


The full report is available here

Children and Armed Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General

It is worrying period to be a child in many countries,apart from the rising number of sexual abuse cases as well as violence against children in ‘normal’ circumstances (i.e. in most countries) there is widespread condemnation about the abuse of children in situations of armed conflict. The report from the UN secretary general, below, provides some of the evidence of the perpetrators of the abuse of children in situations of armed conflict -but is enough done to control th etrade in arms and the manufacturers of the arms themselves? In many cases economies thrive on the production and sale of arms -so lets look at the bigger picture as well as the specifics listed below.

Children and Armed Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General

(UN General Assembly, UN Security Council)

The present report provides information on grave violations committed against children, in particular the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, the abduction of children, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access to children by parties to conflict in contravention of applicable international law (see sect. II). The report also describes progress made by parties to conflict on dialogue and action plans to halt the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children and the killing and maiming of children, as well as on the release of children associated with armed forces and armed groups (see sect. III).


The full report is available here


And from CRIN

The United Nations Secretary-General (SG) has issued his annual report on children and armed conflict to the Security Council which gives an overview of the situation of children in conflict zones and measures taken for their protection.

Annexes to the report include the so-called “list of shame”, a list of the countries that violate international standards on children and armed conflict. Each year, an updated version of the “list of shame” is included in the SG’s annual report. Read more.

The report is scheduled to be discussed by the Security Council during its annual open debate on Children and Armed Conflict. The debate will likely take place in September.

Last year, a new resolution extended the criteria for listing parties to the conflict in the annual report. The criteria now include parties that attack schools and hospitals. Prior to this resolution, the SG’s annual list was limited to parties who recruit or use, kill and/or maim children, or commit sexual violence.

Armed groups in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Iraq, all feature on the list, as well as the Syrian Government forces who regularly shell, burn, loot and raid schools, as well as assault or threaten teachers, students, and medical personnel.

The “list of shame” is growing rapidly. It now contains 52 names, 32 of which are so-called “persistent perpetrators” – parties to conflict whose names have featured on the “list of shame” for five years or more.

The number of persistent perpetrators has doubled since the Secretary-General 9th report. Read more.


New groups on the radar

The report included Syrian government forces and their allied Shabiha militia for the first time.”In almost all recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the Shabiha militia, in their ongoing conflict with the opposition, including the Free Syrian Army,” the report says.

Last week, Syria’s government was accused of carrying out a new massacre in a small village near the central city of Hama, with an opposition group claiming 100 people, including many women and children, had been killed.

“We have 100 deaths in the village of al-Qubair, among them 20 women and 20 children,” said Mohammed Sermini, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, who accused the regime of being behind the incident.

A few days earlier, over the weekend of 25 and 26 May, 49 children were killed in the El Houleh area of Homs, among a total of 116 victims, in a massacre that witnesses have described as a door-to-door killing spree. “[E]ntire families were shot in their houses,” said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Some of the children were found with their hands tied behind their backs, with one witness recounting how in one home soldiers shot and killed children first so their parents would have to watch before being killed themselves.

A Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on “The deteriorating human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and the killings in El-Houleh” was held in Geneva on the 1st of June. The members of the Human Rights Council “condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh in attacks that involved a series of Government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood.”

New parties were listed in Yemen (the First Armoured Division – FAD). In May, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had expressed concern over the use of heavy weaponry, landmines, as well as the detonation of unexploded ordnance in Yemen that have claimed the lives of 27 children and maimed 32 others so far. According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the emergency in Yemen has all the characteristics of an acute humanitarian crisis, with nearly the entire population affected. Read more.

New parties were also listed in Sudan. Since violence broke out between Sudan and South Sudan a year ago, more than half a million people have been displaced by ongoing indiscriminate airstrikes by the Sudanese Armed Forces, as well as severe food shortages compounded by the Sudanese authorities’ refusal to allow independent humanitarian assistance into the areas. Read the report from Amnesty International.


And the veterans…

The Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) remains among the most persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children. A new UN report released earlier this month, covering the period between July 2009 and February 2012, found evidence that at least 591 children, including 268 girls, were abducted and recruited by the LRA, mostly in DRC, but also in the Central African Republic (CAR), and in South Sudan.


New worrying trends

The report also highlights the increasing use of girls and boys as suicide bombers and “victim” bombers. “Victim” bombers are those who do not know that they are carrying explosives that are detonated from a distance. In 2011 alone, at least 11 children in Afghanistan and another 11 girls and boys in Pakistan were killed while conducting suicide attacks, some as young as eight years old.


De-listings, new action plans, releases of children

On a positive note, parties to conflict in Nepal and Sri Lanka have been removed from the list after their successful completion of Security Council-mandated action plans to end the recruitment and use of children. In 2011, five more parties in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan entered into similar agreements with the United Nations.

In 2011, the release of children associated with armed forces and armed groups have taken place in the Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, DRC, Myanmar, South Sudan and Sudan.

International Women’s Day – 8th March 2012


If every International Women’s Day event held in 2012 includes girls in some way, then thousands of minds will be inspired globally.

Each year around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Organisations, governments, charities and women’s groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs -IWD

Some examples of resources:

Below are examples of some great International Women’s Day resources to share:

– UN Women Secondary School Kit 2012
– Deloitte’s International Women’s Day Toolkit
– We are Equals posters, badges and stickers
– Celebrating Working Women International Women’s Day video

Previous United Nations International Women’s Day themes:

– 2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology
– 2010: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all
– 2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls
– 2008: Investing in Women and Girls
– 2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls
– 2006: Women in decision-making
– 2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future
– 2004: Women and HIV/AIDS
– 2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals
– 2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities
– 2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts
– 2000: Women Uniting for Peace
– 1999: World Free of Violence against Women
– 1998: Women and Human Rights
– 1997: Women at the Peace Table
– 1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future
– 1975: First IWD celebrated by the United Nations

And if you want a longer historical perspective:


From Cultural Survival

In the spirit of the historical value of International Women’s Day, it is also important to understand the struggles Indigenous women face. Gender based violence and gender discrimination is an everyday reality for many Indigenous women. A 1999 study of the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually violated than women in the United States in general. In Canada, the rate of single mother Aboriginal families is nearly double that of the general population (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada). In the Somali region of Ethiopia, a recent survey found that the literacy rate for female pastoralists was 4.8 percent, compared to a 22.7 percent literacy rate for male pastoralists (UNPFII).


While these examples paint the gravity of the challenges Indigenous women face, it can also be said that the spirits of Indigenous women remain unbreakable. One of the many things Indigenous women have taught us is that where there is struggle, there is strength, and where there is persecution, there is endurance. While Indigenous women are more likely to be robbed of their lands and languages, there are many Indigenous women like jessie little doe Baird and her language apprentices from the Wampanoag Nation of southeastern Massachusetts, who are revitalizing threatened languages. And while Indigenous women often lack political representation, there are increasing numbers of Indigenous women serving as local, regional, and national representatives as in Peru and Venezuela where Indigenous women have been elected members of their national parliaments. Read more.

  • Watch. Celebrate International Women’s Day and U.S. Women’s History Month with the Independent Television Service’s online film festival featuring “extraordinary women and girls on the front lines of change around the world.” Watch We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân through March 31st and meet Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program partners at the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project: jessie little doe Baird and language apprentices Nitana Hicks, Tracy Kelley, and Melanie Roderick, and the Wampanoag Nation of southeastern Massachusetts.

Violence Against Children – Global Spotlight

INEE write about a new report from IRIN on violence against children. This topic has been hidden for too long and since the UN study governments have been challenged and brought to account in light of their signing of the CRC

UNICEF Achinto

Download the study here:

IRIN report :

Between 133 million and 275 million children experience violence at home every year, most of whom live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the 2006 UN Study on Violence against Children. After her first year in the job, the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, told IRIN her major achievement has been to bring violence against children out into the open. Marta Santo Pais will continue on to pursue four priorities in the next two years: to see legislation prohibiting all forms of violence against children passed in more countries; gather more data on violence against children; set up better counselling networks for child victims of violence; and push all governments to follow the plan to eliminate violence against children set out in 2006.

unicef Lemoyne

To learn more about these goals and priorites, click here.

Take Back the Tech -Activism Against Gender-based Violence

What is Take Back the Tech?

Take Back The Tech! is a collaborative campaign that takes place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (25 Nov – 10 Dec). It is a call to everyone – especially women and girls – to take control of technology to end violence against women.

This campaign is organised by the Association of Progressive Communications, Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP).

APC WNSP is a global network of more than 175 women in over 55 countries promoting gender equality in the design, implementation, access and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and in the policy decisions and frameworks that regulate them.

What is VAW?

VAW, or violence against women, means any act that results in harm and disproportionately affects women. The root cause of VAW lies in unequal power relations between men and women in almost all facets of life. Some examples of VAW include domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines VAW as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.

VAW was recognised as a violation of fundamental human rights in 1993, less than two decades ago, officially through the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations General Assembly. Women’s movements across the world are continuously bringing to light new dimensions and different forms of VAW.

What is ICTs?

ICTs, or information communication technologies, broadly means tools and platforms that we use for our communication and information needs. Some examples include radio, mobile telephones, television broadcasts, and the internet.

Sometimes ICTs are understood in “old” and “new” forms. Simply put, “older” forms of ICTs are where information is transmitted in analogue format like radio, and “newer” forms of ICTs are those transmitted in digital formats like wireless technology.

In reality, the distinctions are not absolute, and there are many kinds of ICTs that move from one to the other. The important point is that ICTs carry different meanings and value in different contexts, and impact upon societies significantly in different ways.


Both ICTs and VAW affects our capacity to completely enjoy our human rights and fundamental freedoms. There is an increased recognition of the connection between VAW and ICTs. For example, the websites can be a useful place for women in violent relationships to get information and help. However, tools like spyware and GPS tracking devices have been used by abusers to track and control their partner’s mobility.

There are at least two ways to see how ICT impact power relations:

  • Representation
    ICTs are able to transmit and disseminate norms through representations of “culture” and social structures and relations. Often also acting as media, images reinforce notions of “difference” between men and women by normalising stereotypes of gender roles as reality.

However, this dynamic is not straightforward or simple, as cultures are not homogeneous or static. The increased diversity of content producers on the internet also allows an array of representations that affect gender relations in complex ways. The strands of gender, sexual, cultural, and racial discourses communicated through ICTs must be unravelled to assess their role in affecting culture and norms.

  • Communication
    The speed, vastness and relative ease of use, especially of “new” ICTs reduce distance and time between people. This can have a great influence on social relations. ICTs can allow survivors of VAW to seek information and assistance, but can also endanger survivors if utilised without an understanding of their dimensions. Local strategies by organisations can be compromised by ICTs through issues of privacy, misrepresentation and misunderstanding.

On the other hand, organisations have utilised the capabilities of ICTs to network across great distances and mobilise immediate action on urgent situations of VAW. By examining how ICTs have been employed, women’s movements can shape stronger connections with greater understanding of their potential and limitations.

More information and examples on how VAW & ICTs are interconnected, including example of case studies, can be read through APC WNSP’s research papers here.


TakeBackTheTech Campaign featured on Global Voices

Renata Avila has written on Global Voices about the Take Back The Tech Campaign.

She focused on the importance of such a campaign in Central America, highlighting some of the female bloggers who focus on technology:

“This is one of the many initiatives across the globe that are encouraging women not to be afraid of technologies and through education [es] on how to use it to improve their lives. Today more than ever, it is important for women and girls to use technologies to improve their lives, especially in Central America.”

With the millions of blogs out there, how can you choose which blogs to read, what if you want to read about what’s happening in other countries.. that will most probably not be written in your language too? You can search and translate,. or you can try something like Global Voices.

Global Voices is what is called a Bridge Blog, building small bridges across language and culture barriers, where you can peek at what other people are concerned with and struggling against right now.

“Global Voices aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore.”

They are covering many countries in different lauguages, by volunteer authors. Check their website and see whether your blogosphere is represented.



Build the campaign with your thoughts, ideas, words and imagination. Create and share digital postcards. Find out more about the reality of violence against women by watching digital stories. Blog with us. Upload and share video and audio clips. Create your own Take Back The Tech! campaign.

Celebrate -20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)- free resources

As mentioned in an earlier post the 20th November is not only Universal Children’s Day, but also the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) has produced a celebratory explanation of some of the articles of the CRC and also some important resources. INEE is an open global network of over 3,500 practitioners, students, teachers, staff from UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, donors, governments and universities who work together to ensure all persons the right to quality, relevant and safe educational opportunities.

From INEE:

Tomorrow, 20 November 2009, is the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is a legally binding international instrument spelling out the principles that Member States of the United Nations agree to be universal – for all children, in all countries and cultures, at all times and without exception, simply through the fact of their being born into the human family. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.

The CRC is of particular importance to education in emergencies, because it forcefully brings together provisions relevant to emergencies and armed conflict in ways that few other international treaties do, offering added protection for the consistently most vulnerable group: the child.

The following 2 articles affirm the right of the child to education, in emergencies, as well as in times of peace and stability:

Article 28 obliges all state parties to establish educational systems and ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to them. Especially primary education must be compulsory and free to all, but also secondary, vocational and higher education must be made progressively available. Education must be provided in a way that respects the dignity of the child at all times. Lastly, Article 28 obliges States to encourage and promote international cooperation, with particular account taken of the needs of developing countries.

Article 29 defines the aims of education, chief amongst these being that education shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. This echoes the over-riding principle of the CRC, as stated in Art. 3, of the best interest of the child, requires that schools be child-friendly in the fullest sense of the term and that they be consistent in all respects with the dignity of the child. Lastly, that education must be for “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”.

These 2 articles must be read together with a few other key articles in the Convention:

Article 2  on non-discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

Article 38 on the respect for the rules of international humanitarian law in times of conflict, ensuring the continued and specific protection of children and civilians, protecting them from taking part in hostilities and entering into armed forces.

Amnesty International

Article 6 (right to life); Article 9 (separation from parents); Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child); Article 19 (Child’s right to protection from all forms of violence); Article 22 (Refugee children); Article 39 (Rehabilitation of child victims); and the 1st Optional Protocol (On the Involvement of children in armed conflict).

Timor Leste -Ray Harris

The right to education is also articulated in many other international conventions and documents, which do not limit this right to children, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951); the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006); and the non-legally binding Dakar World Education Forum Framework for Action (2000), promoting Education for All.

More free resources

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of independent experts responsible for reviewing progress made by States parties in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, devoted its 2008 Day of General Discussion (DGD) on to articles 28 and 29 of the Convention dealing with the right to education, focusing upon the education of children in emergency situations. The day was intended to provide States and other actors with more comprehensive guidance as to their obligations to promote and protect the right to education as outlined in articles 28 and 29. For more information about the DGD, please click here.

The Committee released its report, including recommendations, which you can find on the INEE website along with several other supporting documents about the day. Among the recommendations particularly relevant to INEE members, the Committee:

  • calls upon States parties to honor their obligation to fully ensure the right to education for every child within their jurisdiction, without any discrimination, throughout all stages of emergency situations, including the emergency preparedness phase and the reconstruction and the post emergency phases.
  • calls upon States parties, donors and relief agencies to include education as an integral component of the humanitarian relief response from the outset.
  • urges all States parties, in particular those that are prone to natural disasters or in areas likely to be affected by armed conflict, to prepare a plan of action for the provision of the right to education in emergency situations.
  • urges States parties to fulfill their obligation therein to ensure schools as zones of peace and places where intellectual curiosity and respect for universal human rights is fostered; and to ensure that schools are protected from military attacks or seizure by militants; or use as centres for recruitment. The Committee urges States parties to criminalize attacks on schools as war crimes in accordance with article 8(2)(b) (ix) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to prevent and combat impunity.
  • urges States parties, United Nations agencies, donors and relief agencies to ensure that INEE Minimum Standards are applied at all stages of humanitarian relief response in order to ensure the right of children to education in emergencies.
  • recommends that States parties and other international partners support child participation so that children can voice their views with regard to what they learn (the content) and how they learn (rights-based and child-centered active learning) and are empowered by the relevant content of education and the active learning process.

The DGD, and these ensuing recommendations on education in emergencies, built upon the 2008 report of Vernor Muñoz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education on the right to education in emergencies. Many INEE members contributed to the contents of this report through questionnaires developed by the Special Rapporteur and disseminated on the INEE Listserv and Website. For a summary of the report, the full text for download in Spanish and English, and highlights relating specifically to INEE and the INEE Minimum Standards please click here.

Right to Education Project
The RTE site offers information and resources for States, civil society organisations and individuals on how to interpret and claim the right to education. It is centered on the basic premise that education must be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable to all; that education systems must be accountable, participatory, transparent and non-discriminatory; and that education rights entails both the right to, in and through education.

UNICEF Website:  20th Anniversary of the CRC
The UNICEF site includes a Take Action center that articulates what individuals can do – visa via governments, families and communities, schools and teachers, the media, the private sector, and development and humanitarian organizations — to change the Convention from words on paper into real actions for children. It also contains a section for youth, helping them to understand the CRC, know their rights and take action:

INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit Thematic Guide on Human & Children’s Rights
The INEE Minimum Standards present a global framework for coordinated action to enhance the quality of educational preparedness and response, increase access to relevant learning opportunities, and ensure humanitarian accountability in providing these services. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the foundational documents for the INEE Minimum Standards. The tools and resources in this guide are a selection from the INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit that relate to the cross-cutting issue of human and children’s rights. To access the Thematic Guide, please click here. All of these resources are available online and on the INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit

Your Right to Education: A Handbook for Refugees and Displaced Communities
The Women’s Refugee Commission created Your Right to Education: A Handbook for Refugees and Displaced Communities to raise awareness of everyone’s right to education. The handbook uses drawings that readers at all levels can understand. It is hoped that you will share Your Right to Education with children, young people and adults in your community to help them better understand the right to education, how it fits with other human rights and the benefits that education may bring. It is also hoped that Your Right to Education will serve as a tool to discuss these issues in depth and to encourage action to expand and improve education in displaced communities. Click here to download the Handbook in English, French and Arabic.

A complimentary resource is Right to Education During Displacement. A resource for organizations working with refugees and internally displaced persons (2006, Women’s Refugee Commission), which is available here.

Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)
This website and listserv offers consistently high-quality and comprehensive information on the rights of the child as defined in the CRC. It also has a selection of resources relating to education. Explore the website, and sign-up for their listserv CRINMAIL here:

A Human Rights Based Approach to Education for All
(2007, UNICEF and UNESCO)
This document brings together the current thinking and practice on human rights-based approaches in the education sector. It presents key issues and challenges in rights-based approaches and provides a framework for policy and programme development from the level of the school up to the national and international levels.While the predominant focus of the document is on primary basic education and child rights within education, it is based on the EFA goals and situated within lifecycle and lifelong learning approaches. It addresses the right to education as well as rights within education, which include human rights education itself. Click here to download this resource.