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Article 14: Plan of action for education.

Each State Party to the present Covenant which, at the time of becoming a Party, has not been able to secure in its metropolitan territory or other territories under its jurisdiction compulsory primary education, free of charge, undertakes, within two years, to work out and adopt a detailed plan of action for the progressive implementation, within a reasonable number of years, to be fixed in the plan, of the principle of compulsory education free of charge for all.


Articles 13 and 14 together address the right to education. Article 13 guarantees the right to free and compulsory primary education and equal access to all levels of educational institutions. Article 14 requires States to establish a plan of action to implement this right.

These articles require equal treatment of men and women and non-discrimination in implementing access to education and use of education facilities; the freedom to choose education and to establish educational institutions; the protection of students against cruel and inhuman disciplinary measures; and academic freedom. (43) General Comment 11 emphasizes that the lack of educational opportunities for girls and women perpetuates their poverty and exploitation. (44) General Comment 13 acknowledges that education is an essential empowerment right that allows economically and socially marginalized adults and children to lift themselves out of poverty. (45) It also acknowledges that women have been disadvantaged in the enjoyment of the right to education and mandates that the principles of equality and non-discrimination apply to women's and girls' access to education. (46)

Implementation of Articles 13 and 14 require taking all necessary measures to provide for equal rights and access to women and girls in the field of education. (53) These Articles require States to guarantee women and girls equal physical and economic access to education to make it possible for them to participate fully in society. (48) In particular, women and girls must have the same access as men and boys to career and vocational guidance, to all levels of educational institutions in both rural and urban areas, and to all types of vocational training. In addition, where girls drop out of school at a greater rate than boys, States must work to reduce the rates of girls leaving school prematurely.

To ensure that women have equal access to education, it may be necessary for the government to institute temporary special measures to secure their advancement. Such measures are not considered discriminatory as long as they are temporary. They must be discontinued once the specific objectives are met. (50) General Comment 13 requires the government to take such measures to ensure access and the advancement of individuals or groups in the field of education. (51)

General Comment 13 obligates States to remove gender and other stereotyping that impedes access by girls to equal education opportunities and to take measures to address de facto discrimination in the education of girls. (52) These measures may include reformulation of curricula and education materials to eliminate stereotyping and gender bias, allocation of equal resources to girls' education, special encouragement and incentives to girls and to their families to help them stay in school, and training of teachers to understand and eliminate gender bias in teaching, classroom interactions, and extracurricular activities connected to the schools.

The Committee has recognized that women face both legal and customary obstacles to education in many countries and receive fewer years of formal education than men. (53) In some countries they constitute as little as one-third of students in primary schools and one-fourth in high schools. (54) The Committee also has pointed to the disproportionate impact the absence of compulsory education has on women's literacy, particularly among women living in rural areas. (55)

Questions to ask:

1. Is primary education compulsory and available at no cost? What is the enrollment rate of girls in primary education relative to that of boys?

2. If free compulsory education is not available, has the State undertaken a plan for the progressive implementation of free education, as required by Article 14? Does this plan take into account gender-based disparities?

3. Is secondary education available at no cost? If it is, what is the enrollment rate of girls in secondary education relative to that of boys? If it is not available, what policies have been implemented to achieve free secondary education?

4. What is the enrollment rate of girls in technical and vocational schools relative to that of boys? What concrete steps have been taken to ensure that girls face no discrimination in attaining a technical or vocational education?

5. Is higher education available at no cost? If it is, what is the enrollment rate of women in higher education relative to that of men? If it is not available, what measures are being taken to achieve free higher education 6. What is the dropout rate for girls? What is the dropout rate for boys? Why do girls drop out? Why do boys drop out? What policies have been implemented to encourage families to keep girls in school?

7. Are there cultural or safety barriers to girls or women traveling to school? What has the State done to overcome these barriers? Where proximity is an issue, are schools available to girls within safe physical reach or, alternatively, available via a distance learning program? What percentage of rural girls and women are enrolled in school?

8. Are schools co-educational? If not, are resources distributed equally between schools for girls and schools for boys? How do separate schools compare regarding enrollment and attendance, student-teacher ratios, teachers' academic credentials, quality of books and teaching materials, technology, and academic performance? Are there differences between the curricula at girls' schools and those at boys' schools? If so, how and why are they different?

9. Do co-educational schools have equal and appropriate sanitation facilities for both sexes?

10. What is the literacy rate among women? What is it among men? What programs has the State undertaken to fight adult illiteracy, generally, and illiteracy among women specifically?

11.. What percentage of teachers and professors are women? What percentage of administrators at all levels?

12. What has the State done to reduce the costs families must pay for education, such as uniforms, fees, school supplies, and transportation?

13. What education and/or programs has the State introduced to help eliminate gender prejudices and stereotyping that hinder women's or girls' obtaining education on a basis equal to that obtained by men or boys? Describe. How effective are those programs??

14. Are certain courses of study in higher education traditionally associated with one sex? Are women directed or steered into areas of study that are thought of as particularly appropriate for women? Are women directed or steered away from areas of study that are deemed particularly appropriate for men? What has the State done to ensure that women and men can pursue their preferred course of study without facing discrimination?

15. Identify measures taken by the State to address gender-based preferences and stereotyping of women and their roles in society and the family in curriculum, textbooks, other educational materials, and teacher training. How effective are those measures?

16. Has the State undertaken commitments to recruit skilled teachers and to train teachers to understand gender issues in the curriculum, the classroom, the school community, and the family? Describe. How are those commitments being implemented?

17. How free are students and faculty to express their opinions without fear of repression? Are students and faculty allowed to study and discuss human rights and women's issues?

18. Does the State provide education, training, or information aimed at preventing violence against women and girls? Describe. How effective are these efforts?

19. What measures has the State taken to address the practical and cultural issues that prevent women and girls from attending school, such as son preference, early marriage, pregnancy, or confining girls physically to the household, community or village? Does the State protect girls' right to education by ensuring that third parties, such as parents, do not stop girls from going to school?

20. How does the State provide for pregnant or married students to complete their education? Are male students who father children treated the same as female students who become pregnant?

21. Are students protected by law and policy from sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers and administrators? Are these laws and policies enforced?

(43) Fact Sheet No.16 (Rev.1), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, available at

(44) General Comment No. 11, paras. 2-3, Twentieth Session (1999).

(45) General Comment No. 13, para. 1, Twenty-first Session (1999).

(46) General Comment No. 13, paras. 16(e), 32, Twenty-first Session (1999).

(47) For an indication of the specific issues and obstacles related to equality and nondiscrimination in education, see Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 10.

(48) General Comment No. 13, para. 6, Twenty-first Session (1999).

(50) Limburg Principle No. 39, 9 Human Rights Quarterly 122, 127 (1987).

(51) General Comment No. 13, para. 32, Twenty-first Session (1999).

(52) General Comment No. 13, paras. 55, 59, Twenty-first Session (1999).

(53) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Benin. 05/06/2002.E/C.12/1/Add.78.

(54) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Mali. 21/12/1994. E/C.12/1/Add.17(lack of equal access to education with result that women's illiteracy rate was two times that of men); Gambia. 31/05/1994. E/C.12/1/Add.9.

(55) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Tunisia. 14/05/1999.E/C.12/1/Add.36; Gambia. 31/05/1994.E/C.12/1/Add. 9; Sudan.01/09/2000.E/C.12/1/Add.48; Yemen.12/12/2003.E/C.12/1/Add.92 (high illiteracy rate for rural women attributed to inadequate teacher training and high female drop out rate).
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Title Annotation:EQUALITY AND WOMEN'S ECONOMIC SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS: A Guide to Implementation and Monitoring Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Publication:Equality and Women's Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Article 13: Right to education.
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