By Tony Baker

Across the world nearly 60 million children remain out of school and nearly a quarter of a billion are not completing primary education with the necessary skills to be a functionally literate member of society. The right to education for these children has been denied.

The global right to education, first put forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, became part of the binding international human rights framework in 1976 as articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Strengthened through the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the right to education identifies the specific requirements of States to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of their citizens. The CRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history with 195 countries signing on. Only two countries have not yet ratified the CRC — South Sudan and the United States.

The right to education framework, laid out in the ICESCR, CRC, and other international conventions and treaties, covers a wide range of educational areas including foundational issues of access to free or progressively free education, quality issues including educational standards and monitoring, school resources, teacher training and pay, and non-discriminatory language and practice which ensures all students have access to high quality education.

To reinforce the importance of the right to education globally and evaluate the degree countries are fulfilling their obligations, RESULTS is developing a Right to Education Index (RTEI). Now in its early stages of development, the RTEI questionnaire is to contain questions that are explicitly linked to the right to education framework, providing clear leverage for civil society organizations to hold countries accountable for the conventions they have signed onto. As currently envisioned, the RTEI will be built on a governance and 4 As framework commonly incorporated in human rights literature. First introduced by Katarina Tomasevski, the four As include availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability. Indicators on governance and the 4 As are to be developed and constructed in such a way as to yield an overall result which can be compared across countries. Additionally, sub-sections of the RTEI will provide valuable information that can guide national level practices in areas such as: gender discrimination, public vs. private provision of education, resource allocation, and a host of other topics.

As the creation of the RTEI is still in its formative stage we welcome feedback from the larger community. We are presently completing an initial draft of the questionnaire and hope to have an open consultation with interested parties over the coming month. In addition to developing the questionnaire, additional tools to aid in understanding, interpreting, and applying the RTEI will be forthcoming including an analytical framework which will provide potential perspectives for analysis and investigation and a technical manual that outlines how the RTEI was created and calculated. We anticipate completing a five-country pilot of the RTEI during 2015 as a trial phase for what is to become a global index that provides political pressure on countries, solidifies the right to education, and improves the quality of life for children around the globe.