The vast majority of people who live in the “developed countries” know about the existence of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, but what do we really know about this document? When and why was it created? Who has signed up? Is it mandatory?
Every year on November 20th., we celebrate the Universal Children´s Day and in Elesapiens we would like to commemorate this date to make this important document known, since it is a at the heart of many countries legislative principles relating to children and education.
This document is doubtless the most important in the world concerning childhood, and this commemoration seems the perfect opportunity to meet and discuss with the students at the school.
A little history
In 1949, following the approval by the United Nations of the Declaration of Human Rights, it soon became clear that the creation of a specific and differentiated framework for universal protection of children was needed, leading this to the document known as the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Subsequently, on November 20th., 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, brought a new and wider vision of the above statement and drafted a new document of 54 articles which included economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights for all children. This treaty is so far the most widely ratified of history, signed up to by 193 countries. All the countries in the world have ratified the treaty but two, Somalia and the United States. Its application is mandatory for governments and establishes the responsibilities of the state and other agents such as parents, teachers, researchers… as well as of the children themselves.
The right to education
“Education is a fundamental human right and a critical tool for the development of individuals and societies” (UNICEF).
According to Nobel economics laureate James J. Heckman, a country’s investment in primary education and upbringing has a return of between 7% and 10%, more than most mutual funds. UNICEF confirms these figures and estimates that:
- Providing all children quality basic education could boost the local economy of a low-income country by 2%.
- $1 million invested in education and skills is equivalent to $10 million economic growth.
- If all students in poor countries had basic reading skills, this could reduce the number of poor people by 12%.
- Each additional year of schooling can increase women’s income between 10% and 20%.
The importance of education in the Convention on Children Rights is present in various articles of which we can highlight two:
The first being because of its blatant importance today in many countries where cutouts policies are being implemented as a result of the economic crisis:
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:
- Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;
- Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;
- Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;
- Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;
- Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.
2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.
3. States Parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.
The second because it reflects some of the basic educational principles that we must never forget, especially at this time where the influence of technology and mass access to information is rethinking and creating new didactic models:
1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
- The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
- The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
- The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
- 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;
- The development of respect for the natural environment.
2. No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.
On November 20th, we celebrate the Universal Children’s Day, a good day to reflect at school, in the classroom and with our students, what rights and obligations mean, basic principles of education in values.