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Parental choice and the right to education: Revisiting Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Lookup NU author(s): Dr James StanfieldORCiD



This is the final published version of a working paper that has been published in its final definitive form by UNESCO, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, represents the first internationally agreed definition of the right to education and it includes three separate paragraphs. Paragraph one guarantees all children the right to education which is free and compulsory, paragraph two states that that the content of education must be directed to the full development of the human personality and paragraph three confirms that parents have the right to choose the kind of education which their children receive. Since 1948 the focus of attention within the international community has been on implementing paragraphs one and two, while paragraph three has been neglected. This raises a number of questions including: Why was paragraph three included in Article 26? Are the three paragraphs of Article 26 listed in order of importance? Should the three paragraphs be addressed separately, or do they all form part of a greater whole? To address these questions this paper will revisit the debates and discussions involved in the writing of Article 26. The relevance of these debates to the growth of non-state schooling and the current challenge of delivering SDG 4 will then be discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stanfield J

Publication type: Working Paper

Publication status: Published

Journal: UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report

Type of Article: Background paper

Year: 2021

Pages: 30

Publisher: UNESCO


Notes: Background Paper prepared for the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report Non-state actors in education