"Education is a basic human right and the best investment that we can make to ensure a sustainable future and leave no one behind. "
Is it time to define students' right to a quality education?
Every young person in Canada has a right to education, but currently we have no way of knowing whether all children and young people have access to a quality education — from early childhood through post-secondary— that fully prepares them to participate in work, life, and society.
People for Education — working with experts from across Canada, and with support from the Maytree Foundation — is going to change that.
Together, we have developed a DRAFT Right to Education Framework that articulates the key components of a quality education in Canada.
|Download the backgrounder||Download Full Draft Framework Visual|
Draft Right to Education Framework
Defining a public education system where all children and young people fully enjoy the right to a quality education.Download the full framework
Click on the tabs below to learn more around the vision and goals for each section of the Right to Education Framework.
RIGHT TO ACCESS
Vision: All students have access to quality public education facilities, learning environments, educators, support staff, and learning opportunities without discrimination on any grounds.
|Goals||1. Education institutions and programs are physically and economically accessible to everyone and produce equality of outcomes.|
|2. Resources are adequately and equitably distributed for all education institutions receiving public funds.|
|3. Children have access to early childhood and care programs that ensures they arrive at school ready to learn.|
|4. Students can attend comparable education institutions and programs within reasonable distance of their home.|
|5. Students living in Canada without legal immigration status have access to publicly funded education.|
|6. Students have access to broad learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.|
|7. Students have access to arts and music programs, trained arts and music educators, and proper equipment and facilities.|
|8. Students have access to sports, recreation and wellness programs, trained educators, and proper equipment and facilities.|
|9. Students have access to outdoor spaces such as schoolyards and parks with various health-promoting features.|
|10. Students have access to learning opportunities that reflect and value their lived experiences, identities, and communities.|
|11. Students have access to staff and resources to support their spiritual and cultural needs and mental and physical health needs.|
|12. Students have access to learning environments free from surveillance including policing.|
|13. Students have access to well-maintained, timely transportation to and from school.|
|14. Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions have access to full, safe, and equitable participation in curricular and extra-curricular activities.|
|15. Students have access on an as-needed basis, to guidance counsellors, social workers, and mental health workers.|
|16. Students have access to internet and necessary equipment, software, and support to participate in digital learning opportunities.|
|17. Students have access to cooperative education experiences that offer appropriate credits for completion.|
|18. Students with disabilities have access to special education programs and required resources to support their learning needs.|
|19. School boards uphold their duty to accommodate students with disabilities, informed by principles of respect for dignity, individualization and integration, and full participation.|
|20. Students have access to healthy food at school.|
|21. Students have access to washrooms and change rooms congruent with their gender identity.|
|22. Students have access to education in an official language of their choice.|
|23. Indigenous students have access to education in their language.|
|24. Students have access to a full range of library services, staff, and programs to support their learning and developmental needs.|
|25. Students have access to libraries that provide materials and resources that encourage leisure reading, support success in school, and provide connection online.|
RIGHT TO ACCOUNTABILITY
Vision: Public education systems are accountable to students and families for their ability to uphold and protect students’ right to education.
|1. School, board, and jurisdictional improvement plans include concrete goals supporting human rights-based cultures in schools.|
|2. There are clear and respectful interventions that students, families, staff and communities can access when their rights are violated.|
|3. Clearly identified human resources and mechanisms exist to support students, staff, parents, and communities to bring forward complaints if rights are violated.|
|4. Policy and programs exist to work against the persistent connection between demographic factors and student success.|
|5. With permission and according to self-identification, identity-based data is collected, analyzed and utilized to address persistent barriers to achievement and well-being for historically oppressed communities.|
|6. Data collection recognized and upholds young people’s rights to privacy and access to/management of information about them.|
|7. Policies and programs developed, sustained, and monitored to close any gaps identified-based data collection|
|8. Data is open, comparable, and longitudinal so that longer-term outcomes and impacts can be measured.|
|9. School boards, provinces and territories regularly publish analysis of identity-based data in an accessible manner.|
|10. System advocates, such as an ombudsperson, support students and families in accessing advocacy related to their right to education and support students and families to navigate the education system.|
RIGHT TO QUALITY
Vision: Public education prepares all students with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to be healthy, engaged citizens in the changing world of work, learning, and life.
||1. Children’s rights, human rights, and treaty rights are taught throughout students’ schooling.|
|2. Learning facilities are safe, well-maintained, and clean.|
|3. Students are taught literacy, numeracy, and skills for life.|
|4. Students are taught transferable skills such as learning to learn, thinking creatively and critically, collaborating, communicating effectively, and developing a sense of self and society.|
|5. Students are taught by educators who have subject matter expertise.|
|6. Students are taught by educators with pedagogical training and ongoing professional development.|
|7. Assessment of learning is both formative and summative and provides opportunities to learn and improve with feedback.|
|8. Student growth is supported through flexible pathways that do not limit students’ options for career or post-secondary progression.|
|9. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 62 and 64 are fulfilled including:
|10. Education programs are designed to yield the most opportunities for student progression to a range of post-secondary options.|
|11. School board leadership and educators reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.|
|12. Students, families, teachers, and guidance counsellors are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions about students’ pathways.|
|13. Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is upheld, including agreeing that education shall be directed to:
RIGHT TO RESPECT FOR LEARNERS AND COMMUNITIES
Vision: Public education respects every student’s inherent value and human potential.
|1. Students are valued as knowledge-bearers and included in decision-making processes that respect their rights to information, participation, and safety.|
|2. School board policies and procedures are developed in accordance with human rights standards.|
|3. Disciplinary processes prioritize students remaining in school and are rooted in restorative practices that promote healthy relationships between students and others.|
|4. Police officers in all educational settings are a last resort and deprioritized as a response to student discipline.|
|5. Students learn in safe environments free of all forms of physical or psychological bullying and violence, including gender-based, racial, sexual, class-based, and faith-based.|
|6. Curriculum and pedagogy reflects and respect the diversity of lived realities and ways of knowing for students, parents, and communities.|
|7. Indigenous elders and knowledge-keepers are involved in the development of learning opportunities for students related to Indigenous education and Indigenous worldviews.|
|8. Students are addressed using their pronouns.|
|9. Ongoing professional development is provided to educators and administrators on how systems of oppression operate to create and sustain barriers for student achievement and well-being.|
|10. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 57 is fulfilled:
|11. The Truth and Reconciliation’s Commission Call to Action 1, iii, is fulfilled:
|12. School boards create and sustain programs and policies that work against the effects of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and racism and discrimination in all its forms on student achievement and well-being.|
|13. School boards and their systems are structured to amplify student voices.|
If you have any questions around the framework or about consultations, please see our Frequently Asked Questions section for more information.
Please select the plus (+) icon to the right of each topic to learn more on our frequently asked questions
What is the Draft Right to Education Framework?
In Canada, every child and young person has a right to education.
That right is included in many national and international human rights agreements, including, among others, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Missing from the declarations, conventions and covenants, is clarity about the quality of education that every child and young person should have a right to.
Developed in consultation with experts from across Canada, the Draft Right to Education Framework is a tool to define and track our progress toward achieving the goals of a quality education for all learners. The proposed Framework – which addresses education from early childhood education through kindergarten to Grade 12 – outlines 61 specific goals related to access, accountability, quality, and respect for learners and communities.
The Right to Education Framework builds on People for Education’s more than 20-year commitment to monitoring policy and funding changes in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
What is a rights-based framework?
Every person in Canada has a range of economic, social, and cultural rights. In addition, Indigenous peoples in Canada have specific treaty-based rights and inherent rights, as well as rights articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Rights-based frameworks help to define in specific terms what types of supports and services people should expect to receive within our economic and social systems. These frameworks can help governments and individuals re-imagine both how systems are structured and how well they are serving the individuals and communities they are meant to serve.
Having a rights-based framework does not mean that every right is achieved overnight, but it does provide a tool to track systems’ or jurisdictions’ progress toward achieving a defined set of goals. This concept – of “progressive realization” of rights – is enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It means that once a set of rights are agreed upon, states must show that they are taking steps toward the full realization of those rights, using their maximum available resources. In this way, rights-based frameworks can be used to guide progress and to hold jurisdictions accountable.
How are human rights connected to equity?
Equity and rights are inextricably linked.
Every person has the right to non-discrimination, and the human rights principle of universality embeds the right to equity. The principle of equity acknowledges and recognizes that historically there are populations who have been underserved, underrepresented, and discriminated against, and that closing gaps in the enjoyment of rights is necessary to achieve equality of outcomes in education and life.
A rights-based education framework helps recognize the goals of equity as an obligation within a framework of accountability. It is one of the many strategies that can be used to address systemic racism, the impacts of colonization, and continued inequities not only in access, but in students’ rights to equitable outcomes and success in education.
How does the right to education enable other rights?
It is especially important to reinforce education as a right for all children and young people because access to a high-quality education promotes and enables other rights and freedoms. The right to education is often referred to as a “multiplier” right, in that it enables access to other human rights, including civil and political rights to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of association, the right to political participation, the right to vote, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to family and private life. It enables cultural rights, social and emotional well-being, and economic rights.
Education is also a key component in allowing people to access other rights – the right to housing and food, for example, or healthcare.
And, according to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, education is “the primary vehicle by which socially and economically marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty.”
What would a Right to Education Framework mean for Canada?
Unlike most countries, Canada does not have a national department of education. Control over education resides with the provinces and territories and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.
However, Canada still has a responsibility to ensure all children and young people fully enjoy their right to education. The right to education was recognized as a core human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Canada formally recognized this right in 1976, when it signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and again in 1991 when it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which further elaborates on the right to education. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first human rights treaty to explicitly recognize rights of Indigenous children to language and culture.
A Right to Education Framework could be used by multiple levels and types of government and governing structures, including federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, municipal, school board and schools. It would introduce a consistency across the country in terms of the quality of education every person in Canada should expect. The Framework would also serve to harmonize education-related standards across the different systems, while at the same time providing a structure that could be adaptable to local and regional needs.
What are Canada's current commitments to the right to education?
The following documents relate to Canada’s commitment to the right to education:
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981)
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2010)
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015)
- UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2016) (signatory, ratification in progress)
What is quality education in Canada?
Creating a framework that articulates the right to a quality education will help ensure that Canadian education systems create engaged learners with the capacity to continue learning, to collaborate, to communicate effectively and think critically, and to understand themselves and society. Quality education systems promote and prioritize student well-being, and prepare students for long-term success, no matter the future path they choose.
In 2016, representatives from Canada joined world leaders to adopt the Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, which outlines goals to achieve a strong, high-quality education system by 2030 (UNESCO). Those goals include a commitment to the evaluation of outcomes, preparing well- trained and qualified teachers, building well-resourced systems, committing to nurturing literacy and numeracy skills, as well as competencies such as analytical and social-emotional skills. The goals also include a commitment to cultivating citizenship skills, human rights literacy, and global and sustainable development.
How could a Canadian Right to Education framework incorporate Indigenous rights?
It is critically important to distinguish Indigenous rights from a universalizing human rights framework. The Right to Education Framework must uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples.
For Indigenous students, the right to education is a human rights issue, as well as an issue of inherent Indigenous rights and treaty rights. The People for Education Framework recognizes existing standards for Indigenous education developed by Indigenous-led organizations such as the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC), which has developed standards and benchmarks for both K–12 and post-secondary Indigenous educational institutions. International human rights instruments are to support and not to revoke or rescind the self-determining and inherent rights systems of Indigenous Peoples.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly recognize rights of Indigenous children to language and culture, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically outlines the right to “retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well- being of their children, consistent with the rights of the child.”
How will a right to education framework address systematic racism?
There are numerous rights frameworks that declare acts and behaviours associated with racism and discrimination unacceptable, such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with some remedies available in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and provincial/territorial human rights bodies. Recently, there have also been public acknowledgments that systemic racism persists in education and affects students’ outcomes.
Up to now, this has not had a substantive effect on shifting the culture embedded in many if not most education systems. By defining specific and potentially measurable goals for access, accountability, quality, and respect for all learners, the Draft Right to Education Framework has the capacity to provide a more concrete pathway to address pervasive racism in the education system.
Can introducing a rights framework create an overly litigious culture in school systems?
There is some evidence to suggest that with the introduction of a rights-based framework, individual complaints increase. However, it is not the intention to use this Framework – or the tools that can be derived from it – to make individuals or groups of individuals unduly responsible for its entirety.
The Framework is intended to place learners and their experiences at the heart of how we design and deliver education, in realms including access, accountability, quality and respect for all learners. The rights-based perspective can be as much about shifting culture in schools and school systems, as it is about creating a list of legal rights. For instance, at the school level, the Framework can be used in tandem with existing mechanisms such as school improvement plans, or strategies such as UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools initiative.
What are the roles and responsibilities of different parties under a rights framework?
The Framework is centred in a rights-based approach to education that acknowledges students are rights-holders and adults are duty-bearers within educational institutions. In fulfilling students’ right to education in Canada, there is a reciprocal relationship between students (the rights- holders) and the state (the duty-bearers).
As rights-holders, students must be provided with the curriculum, supports and education necessary to develop the capacity and the knowledge that will allow them to claim their right to a quality education. As duty-bearers, the state is legally bound to protect students’ right to quality education, and to ensure that all authorities involved in designing, funding, and delivering education – the federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous governments, school boards and school districts, individual schools, their leaders, and other responsible adults – take steps toward the full realization of students’ rights, using their maximum available resources.
How was People for Education's Draft Right to Education Framework developed?
Beginning in 2018, People for Education convened a right to education advisory group of experts in children’s rights, human rights, youth engagement, Indigenous education, and public education, along with students and teachers. The advisory group has shaped the Right to Education Framework through their diverse perspectives and experiences.
The goal is to articulate what a quality education consists of in Canada and how to ensure all students can fully enjoy their right to education.
Canada has relatively strong education systems, however persistent gaps and barriers mean that not every child or student has equitable access to the quality education that will provide them the chance for long-term success in school and life. Notably, underfunded on-reserve education, a lack of universal early childhood education and care, and systemic racism continue to undermine equity in education.
By defining quality and articulating concrete goals for access, accountability and respect for individuals and communities, People for Education is seeking to advance the rights outlined in existing Canadian legislation (e.g., Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and in international rights agreements that Canada has signed on to including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The proposed Framework – which addresses education from early childhood education through kindergarten to Grade 12 – includes 61 specific goals, introducing a level of specificity and definition that lends itself to measurement, and therefore, to measuring progress against those goals.
The right to education includes the content and curriculum, governments’ legal obligations, what multiple levels of government must do to implement the right to education, how to monitor the right to education, and how to increase accountability of the right to education. The Framework can be used to help develop a tool to track Canada’s progress in achieving the right to education for all students in publicly funded education.
Read more on education as a human right
In 1948, Canada and nations around the world signed on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes the right to education as a core human right. The right to education is a key element in many of the rights frameworks that Canada has ratified since then.
People for Education’s preliminary research and results of interviews with experts and Right to Education advisory committee
An overview of work being done internationally to promote and uphold children's right to education nation-wide.
Questions for Canada – Tracking Canada’s progress on implementing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
People for Education's Submission to UN Committee for 7th Periodic review of Canada's progress on the right to education
A set of principles developed by an international group of experts and stakeholders on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education.
A global human rights organisation focusing on the right to education.
A practical guide on how to implement and monitor the right to education
Targets and indicators to track progress to Goal #4 Quality Education by 2030
Paper by Canadian early learning expert, Martha Friendly on Canadian children’s right to early learning and care.
A discussion of the rights of children before the age of regular schooling from a UN discussion, published by Unicef.