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Education Reform  - giving civil society a campaign tool through the analysis of the right to education

A unified focus on education reform is a great way for civil society to put pressure on governments to enact laws that respect, protect and fulfil the right to education in its different aspects as defined in international human rights law. It can bring attention to constitutional provisions that deal with education, or the implementation of these provisions through national laws and policies, all of which are open for change and influence through the routes of the democratic process and civil society campaigns. In this way, violations can be brought to attention and challenged. Finally, an education reform initiative is a way for civil society to come together and to speak with one voice.

At the Sabanci University in Turkey the Education Reform Initiative (ERI) [link] serves such a purpose, putting forward questions, defining problems and recommending solutions on Turkish education policy, contributing to the consolidation of participatory, transparent and innovative policy-making processes in education.

To this end, the ERI has produced a remarkable piece of work which should serve as inspiration for other civil societies around the world. With a 328-page long Right to Education and Rights in Education: An Evaluation of National Legislation in Light of International Human Rights Documents in Turkish, they have produced a great tool to use in pushing for education reform and the continued alignment with international law and standards.

An executive summary booklet in English [PDF 1.5MB] has also been produced and we invite everyone to study this and to draw inspiration from it. In clear language it captures the main themes and presents, without simplifying matters, campaigners with the intellectual and legal rigour they need to meet the politicians and courts face to face. It is a document that deserves emulation in any country, where civil society and national education coalitions are fighting to secure the right to education.

The report is a result of a wide consultation process, during which the priority issues for Turkey, possible grouping of rights and current areas of expertise were discussed, and which gave rise to five main themes under which the report and booklet is ordered: access to education; aim, method and content of education; protection of children from violence in educational settings; right to health in educational environments; and school facilities.

For the most part. the themes in this compilation follow a common structure. They present the national legal framework for the issue in question and compare it to the international legal framework, in order to evaluate the compliance gap. Some authors evaluated the entire legislation relevant to their topic whereas others preferred to focus only on certain documents. In the chapter recommendations, the international treaties which Turkey is not a party to or which were ratified with reservations are presented, and recommendations are made towards making the national legislation more conducive to the realization of rights in education. The last part includes policy and implementation recommendations.

Read more:

- Right to Education and Rights in Education: An Evaluation of National Legislation in Light of International Human Rights Documents - English summary [[PDF 1.5MB]]

- The Education Reform Initiative, University of Sabanci [link to]

- Our country pages on Turkey