I found Primer No. 2 by Dr. Katarina Tomaševski to be helpful in illuminating the gap between “should” and “is.”

I think this gap is part of what I am struggling with in the question for this week. If you ask me “Should education be a ‘basic human right’?” the answer is a much easier yes. However, is it? That is more difficult.

In Primer No. 2, the author says “Human rights law defines rights as claims addressed to governments; these specify what governments should and should not be doing. Law is symmetrical and rights cannot exist without corresponding governmental obligations.” Later, she goes on to say that “Because law is symmetrical, the right to education entails corresponding obligations….Nobody can be required to do the impossible.”

Clearly, though, in the current world, for largely economic reasons, it is impossible for some countries to provide universal free education to all children. Tomaševski acknowledges this.

That, then, is the gap. For these countries, it seems difficult to impose obligations and enforce punishments for failing to meet those obligations.

Tomaševski poses several possible solutions to this, many of which involve the international community, regional coalitions, and organizations like the World Bank. All of these are likely to take considerable time.

This is the time though to elevate the importance of education as a basic human right. One of Tomaševski’s lasting legacies is starting the clock ticking and creating awareness for these issues.

OpenEd-Is education a “basic human right”? – Part 3
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