Experimental Reporting System for the Education Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Project’s relevance to Children’s Rights
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’s goals for child development are addressed most directly and clearly in education article 29. The mechanisms and provisions for education to assist in meeting these goals are set forth in education article 28. Schools are arguably the major formal societal child rearing institution, complementing and supplementing the education functions of the family. Good monitoring and reporting on the provisions and effectiveness of education will help to assure fulfillment of the developmental rights of children and advances for civilized society. The Experimental Reporting System research and development project described here is intended to foster improvements in monitoring, reporting and planning for children’s education rights.
Research on Reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
During 1996 and 1997, Lukas Scherer (representative of the International School Psychology Association) analyzed the effectiveness of reporting by States Parties on implementation of the education articles of the Convention (arts. 28 & 29) to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). He was asked to do so by the Education, Literacy and Media Subgroup of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The request was made in recognition of the significance of the education articles in supporting the developmental rights of children and improvements in societal quality of life and the necessity of having good information available to assist in assuring the provision and effectiveness of education in pursing its goals.
Dr. Scherer completed a review and analyses in 1997 of all material relevant to education in the first available 49 States Parties= reports to the CRC. The major thematic standards of arts. 28 & 29 were used to structure the analyses. The findings indicated that the majority of the reports were incomplete and inadequate. The range of differences in report content was great, with some States Parties indicating the fulfillment of most of the education requirements and some reporting fulfillment of no requirements or only one. A majority of the States Parties indicated fulfillment for only the following 4 of 13 thematic standards of these two articles: availability of primary education, diversity of secondary education, equal opportunity to education, and availability of vocational information and guidance. Less than 50% of the States Parties reported having fulfilled any of the requirements of article 29. Among the very poorest findings were those for assuring school discipline which respects the child=s human dignity (24% indicating fulfillment) and preparation for a responsible life in a free society (35% indicating fulfillment). There were strong tendencies to fail to comment at all on education themes and to fail to identify any problems in complying with their standards. The majority of the reports made no mention of 7 of the 13 themes of the articles, while only 4 of 49 and 2 of 49 reports indicated any problems in fulfilling the standards of arts. 28 and 29, respectively. These findings were reported in an invited presentation to the UNESCO/COFRADE conference on children=s rights and education in Paris, November of 1997.
While various interpretations of these results are worthy of consideration, the findings suggested in particular that increased guidance and demand qualities could strengthen the reporting process. A review of the guidelines for initial reports (adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child on 15 October 1991), as they dealt with education, found coverage to be very brief, less than one page, to be quite general, and without direct encouragement to report on each of the thematic standards within arts. 28 and 29. The guidelines, justifiably, appeared to set the expectation for provision of information respecting the holistic nature of the Convention and meaningful clusters of themes. The improvement judged to be most needed in this system was the addition of a structure which would guide and support systematic reporting on each and every major component of specific articles.
The Experimental Reporting System: Research and Development
The findings and conclusions from research on reporting to the CRC provided the impetus for the development of an AExperimental Reporting System for Education@ to explore the possibilities of increasing the comprehensiveness, accuracy, reliability, efficiency and usefulness of reporting on arts. 28 and 29. Dr. Scherer and his associates produced a reporting instrument, which covered all the major themes of the Convention=s education articles. It also included associated conditions and provisions of the international educational data system being employed by UNESCO=s International Bureau of Education. This was done to allow testing of the possibility that international reporting on education could be streamlined through application of a single instrument, thereby eliminating the unnecessary expending of resources in redundant processes.
Each theme of arts. 28 and 29 was itemized and presented with the request that the degree to which it is met for the school-age population be indicated. The system requires that nature of evidence to support each judgement be indicated, referenced, and, where appropriate, attached to the report. See the accompanying page for examples. Additional sections of the report deal with specifics of teacher preparation, classroom supports, curricula, funding, and other salient matters, including supportive evidence.
The Danish Ministry of Education agreed to cooperate in the development of Experimental Reporting System for Education through providing review and advice in its development and by applying it in producing a report of the status of education in Denmark. Ministry representatives were able to complete the report in less than one hour, including the time required to identify evidence supports. They judged the instrument and procedure to be efficient, comprehensive and productive, and to be an improvement over previously applied procedures.
The results from the development and exploratory testing of the Experimental Reporting System for Education were presented in an invited program for the International Conference on Children=s Rights in Education (Copenhagen, 26-30 April 1998). Strong interest in the further development of the System was expressed by many of those in attendance and some volunteered to apply the instrument in their nations. Sandra Mason, then the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (now retired from the CRC), who was in attendance, indicated her supportive interest in the project and later provided a letter encouraging cooperation in the project by the IBE.
Present Status of the Project and Invitation to Cooperate
Testing and refinement is now underway for the Experimental Reporting System for the Education Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ministries of education and NGOs within a widely diverse set of nations are being asked to apply the Reporting System instrument in an exploratory process to determine its the strengths, best applications and need for improvement. It is also hoped that findings will be made available to the CRC through States Parties’ reports. Dr. Scherer, his associates, the International School Psychology Association, and the Education, Literacy, and Media Subgroup of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Office for the Study of the Psychological Rights of the Child (School of Education, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) and Institute of Psychopathology of Children and Youth (University of Zurich; Zurich, Switzerland) are cooperating in this program and welcome requests for information and indications of interest in cooperating. It is their intention and hope to bring this project, its findings and possible applications to the attention of the CRC for its consideration.
Project Director Lukas Scherer (Tel. 41 18 14 1138, Fax. 41 18 14 2878; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, representative of ISPA’s Children’s Rights Committee)
Scherer, L. (1998). State Party reports on the status of education to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the International Bureau of Education: Analyses, comparisons, and a proposition for an experimental reporting system. Thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Scherer, L., & Hart, S. N. (1999). Reporting to the UN-Committee on the Rights of the Child – analyses of the first 49 State Party Reports on the education articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and a proposition for an experimental reporting system for education. International Journal of Children’s Rights, 7, 4, 349-363.