Recognizing Early Childhood Education as a Human Right in International Law

There is incontrovertible evidence that early learning opportunities shape long-term development and health. Nevertheless, early childhood care and education (ECCE) is not expressly mentioned as part of the right to education in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This paper argues that the right to education can nevertheless be regarded as including ECCE. We examine the treaties, General Comments, and 264 Concluding Observations by relevant UN monitoring bodies, covering 152 countries from 2015 to 2020, to determine whether the right to ECCE is regarded as part of States’ obligations and the content of the duty. These demonstrate consistently that States must provide affordable, accessible, quality, inclusive ECCE, with adequate resources. We argue that monitoring committees should draw these obligations together in one General Comment, thereby improving States’ accountability and guiding the delivery of ECCE.


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