What the Right to Eduation Is, and What It Ought to Be : Towards a Social Ontology of Eduction as a Human Right

Abstract: During the second half of the 20th century education has been recognized as a human right in several international conventions, and the UN also holds that “Education shall be free” and that “Elementary education shall be compulsory” (UN, 1948, Article 26).The education-as-a-human right-project could be viewed as a good intention of global inclusion in recognizing that all individuals have a right to education in virtue of being humans, and the idea of education as a human right thus has a tremendous global significance. However, if we look at this more critically, the education-as-a-human right-project, may not only be grounded in altruistic good intensions for the disadvantaged. The term “elementary education”, or sometimes “primary education”, which is used in several human rights-documents seems to suggest that it is some sort of formalized education. It would be useful however to make a distinction between formal and informal education, as well as between teaching, learning, education and schooling, in the discussion of the right to education and specifically in the discussion concerning education as a “human right”. There is obviously a difference between the right to teach, the right to learn, the right to education and the right to schooling. And how are these rights related to compulsory schooling, compulsory education and the supposed duty to teach and duty to learn? A further concern is what makes this a human right rather than for example a juridical right as a citizen.By addressing these questions within a theoretical framework of social ontology and ameliorative conceptual analysis I believe that we can find new ways of dealing with fundamental problems within philosophy of education such as the nature, purpose and aims of education as well as the right to education.

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