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Realizing the right to education through non-formal education

2 June 2017
Special Rapporteur on the right to education
At the Human Rights Council’s 35th session


The right to education should be guaranteed throughout the lifespan—from early childhood until adulthood and into old age. Yet, an estimated 263 million children and youth are not in school today. Some 775 million adults worldwide are illiterate, two thirds of them women. The commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals and in the Incheon Declaration Education 2030 towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all require education systems to reach more learners and to diversify the means of doing so.

The Special Rapporteur believes that non-formal education programmes provide flexible, learner-centred means to improve education outcomes. This is particularly relevant for girls and groups in vulnerable situations, including children with disabilities, minorities and rural and impoverished children, who are disproportionately represented among out-of-school populations. When designed to be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable, such programmes enable States to fulfil the right to education of learners who are excluded from the formal system. Furthermore, such programmes can promote holistic learning objectives that support cultural and linguistic rights.

The Rapporteur calls upon States to recognize non-formal education as a flexible, cost-effective mechanism that can provide quality education and that can help States to meet their obligations in connection with the right to education.