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Rights holders and duty bearers

Many international conventions call on education to be free and compulsory. Making education compulsory places the obligation squarely on the government; to ensure that a school is there and that all obstacles to children’s attendance are removed. This means that education has to be free at the point of use as no government can make it compulsory if they charge for the service. The ICESCR (article 14.11) states that all states must have a concrete plan to provide free and compulsory education within two years of ratifying the covenant. It is understood that the state must create the conditions for education, and that when these standards are met parents or guardians have the obligation to ensure their children attend. Unfortunately,  in some areas parents are forced to send their children to school before these conditions  have been met, and have even been fined and punished for their refusal to send their children to school. This is in contravention to the basic principle of free and compulsory education.

Interpretations by the Committee to ICESCR also imply that there is a clear obligation on the international community to support free and compulsory education. However, neither the Millennium Development Goals nor the Education for All framework use this language. This has created space for agencies like the World Bank to push governments into implementing cost- sharing models of education, directly contradicting the provisions in the ICESCR and CRC.