The Right to Education:
Analysis of Article 24
of the UN CRPD
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
James M. Kauffman
University of Virginia
January 31, 2019
•We analyze Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and in general we examine
the right to education in international human rights law
drawing upon :
▪its general principles,
▪its drafting history, and
▪focus on a legal/policy analysis paragraph-by-paragraph
▪related United Nations documents
▪Concluding Observations by the CRPD Committee
▪General Comment No. 4
•We discuss the relationship (agreements and tensions)
between Article 24 of the CRPD and IDEA (Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act).
Purpose of this Analysis
Part of a 4-year Research Project
•Bantekas, I., Stein, M. A., & Anastasiou, D.
(Eds.; 2018). Commentary on the UN
Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
[≃700,000 words, 1,376 pages]
•Anastasiou, D., Gregory, M., & Kauffman, J. M.
(2018). Article 24: Education. In I. Bantekas, M.
A. Stein, & D. Anastasiou, The UN Convention
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: A
Commentary (pp. 656 –704). Oxford, UK:
Oxford University Press. [28,350 words]
•Anastasiou, D., Kauffman, J. M., & Di Nuovo, S.
(2015). Inclusive education in Italy: description and
reflections on full inclusion. European Journal of
Special Needs Education, 30, 429-443.
•Anastasiou, D., Kauffman, J. M., & Michail, D. (2016). Disability in multicultural theory:
Conceptual and social justice issues. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 27, 3-12.
•Ametepee, L. K. & Anastasiou, D. (2015). Special and inclusive education in Ghana: Status and
progress, challenges and implications. International Journal of Educational Development, 41,
•Mavropalias, T. & Anastasiou, D. (2016). What does the Greek program of Parallel Support
have to say about co-teaching? Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 224-233.
•177 states parties have ratified the Convention as of January 2019.
• A ‘state party’ to a treaty “is a country that has ratified or acceded to
that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the
provisions in the instrument.”
•The United States (US) signed the CRPD in 2009 but has not ratified
it. It is a signatory but not a state party to the CRPD. 4
Background Info •Ratifications/
•The Convention on
the Rights of
Disabilities and its
adopted on 13
•Map of Signatures and Ratifications: with light blue are signatories
•Adoption by the United Nations General Assembly -13
•Opened for signature - 30 March 2007
•Entry into force –3 May 2008
▪Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: General Comment
No 4: Article 24: Right to inclusive education (Adopted 26 August 2016) UN
Doc CRPD/C/GC/4 (25 November 2016).
1. States parties reports
2. Lists of issues (LOIs)
3. Replies to LOIs
4. Concluding observations
Structure of the CRPD (1)
3. General principles
4. General obligations
5. Equality and non-discrimination
6. Women with disabilities
7. Children with disabilities
10. Right to life
11. Situations of risk and
12. Equal recognition before the
13. Access to justice
14. Liberty and security of the person
15. Freedom from torture or cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or
16. Freedom from exploitation,
violence and abuse
17. Protecting the integrity of the
18. Liberty of movement and
19. Living independently and being
included in the community
20. Personal mobility
21. Freedom of expression and
opinion, and access to information
22. Respect for privacy
23. Respect for home and the family 6
Structure of the CRPD (2)
31. Statistics and data collection
32. International cooperation
33. National implementation and
34 to 40. International
monitoring mechanism (e.g.,
Consideration of Reports)
41 to 50. Final clauses (e.g.,
Entry into Force, Reservations,
26. Habilitation and rehabilitation
27. Work and employment
28. Adequate standard of living
and social protection
29. Participation in political and
30. Participation in cultural life,
recreation, leisure and sport
•Optional protocol: Creates additional functions for the Committee on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It adds an individual complaints
procedure to the enforcement of the CRPD.
1. Individual communications
2. Inquiries: Committee member may conduct an inquiry on a State
Article 24: Education (para. 1)
1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with
disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right
without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity,
States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all
levels and life-long learning directed to:
a. The full development of human potential and sense of
dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for
human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity;
b. The development by persons with disabilities of their
personality, talents and creativity, as well as their mental and
physical abilities, to their fullest potential;
c. Enabling persons with disabilities to participate effectively in
a free society.
Article 24: Education (para. 2)
2. In realizing this right, States Parties shall ensure that:
a. Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education
system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not
excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary
education, on the basis of disability;
b. Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free
primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with
others in the communities in which they live;
c. Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is
d. Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general
education system, to facilitate their effective education;
e. Effective individualized support measures are provided in
environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent
with the goal of full inclusion.
Article 24: Education (para. 3)
3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life
and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal
participation in education and as members of the community.
To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures,
a. Facilitating the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and
alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation
and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring;
b. Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the
linguistic identity of the deaf community;
c. Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who
are blind, deaf or deaf-blind, is delivered in the most appropriate
languages and modes and means of communication for the individual,
and in environments which maximize academic and social
Article 24: Education (para. 4&5)
4. In order to help ensure the realization of this right, States
Parties shall take appropriate measures to employ teachers,
including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign
language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who
work at all levels of education. Such training shall incorporate
disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and
alternative modes, means and formats of communication,
educational techniques and materials to support persons with
5. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are
able to access general tertiary education, vocational training,
adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination
and on an equal basis with others. To this end, States Parties
shall ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to
persons with disabilities.
•Drawing from social justice theoretical approaches (Aristotle, 1959; David
Miller, 1999; Samuel Moyn, 2010, 2018; Amartya Sen, 1999; Lorella Terzi,
2010; Michael Walzer, 1983), we use multiple concepts which are understood
Theoretical Approach: Social Justice
1. Dignity (Respect for inherent dignity),
3. Inclusion (full and effective participation and
inclusion in society)
4. Respect for human diversity
5. Equality of opportunity
7. Equality between men and women;
8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children
+ 1. relevance to learning: a needs-based analysis in relation to people with
disabilities (PWD) - “what is”: The current achievements of the person
+ 2. equality of capabilities (“what could be” considering material conditions,
+ 3. distributive justice and proportionality
A Pluralistic Approach to Social Justice
•Equality of opportunity: is usually viewed as equal availability of
resources or equal applicability (or equal non-applicability) of a principle
(Sen, 1992, 1999). Equality of opportunity as antidiscrimination (CRPD,
•High quality education for all requires that we not disregard the atypical
needs of any human being.
•To paraphrase Aristotle (1959): There is nothing more unequal than the
same and invariant educational treatment of people with unequal learning
•Beyond equality of opportunity as antidiscrimination and/or inclusion as
physical presence in general classrooms (sameness), we need a pluralistic
and contextualized approach to social justice operationalized by a
needs-based analysis (bottom-up and empirical approach).
–Relevance to learning demands that people be treated more or less the same,
unless there are relevant educational reasons for treating them differently.
–Proportion of specialized and intensive education requires that people be
treated differently only for relevant reasons, and most importantly the treatment
they receive should be proportionate to their special educational needs in a
pattern of increasing intensity, including specialized and individualized
instruction, even if outside the general education classroom.13
The Ethical Foundation of Human Rights
•Behind human rights, there is a deontological approach to
legal and political issues based on Immanuel Kant (1724 –
1804) and theorists of “natural rights.”
•The idea is that there exist morally imperative demands,
which ideally are not subjected to empirical considerations or
examination of specific situations (Badiou, 2001).
–These imperatives apply to cases of Evil (crime, offence,
bias, discrimination, exclusion etc.);
–These imperatives must be penalized by national and
international law (Badiou, 2001).
Presumptions of the Contemporary
Perception of Human Rights
•The usual presumptions of the human rights concept are the following:
1. Universality: We take a class of human subjects (e.g., persons with
disabilities), such that whatever evil befalls them is universally identifiable.
2. Politics should be subordinated to deontological ethics.
3. “Human rights” are typically viewed as rights to non-Evil: rights not to
be offended or mistreated with respect to one's life (the horrors of murder
and execution), one's body (the horrors of torture, cruelty), or one's cultural
identity (the horrors of the humiliation of women, of minorities, etc.) (Badiou,
➢But what is Evil? In the case of civil and political rights (or negative
rights), Evil is the point from which the Good is derived. Not so much the
other way around (that would be a consequentialist approach to ethics
▪However, in the case of social rights (e.g., education, health care, work,
social protection, adequate standard of living), Good is the point from which
the Evil is typically derived. 15
Is A Deontological Perception of Human
•Human Rights are typically conceived as:
•an a priori ability to discern Evil, and
•The power of this approach rests in its simplicity and self-evidence.
•The graph shows how the (6 CRPD principles + human rights+ social justice have
occurred in a corpus of books in English. It shows trends in these ngrams from
1960 to 2008.
Human Rights: The Last Utopia
(Samuel Moyn, 2010)
•Human rights offer a vision of international equality that today’s
idealistic millions hold dear (Moyn, 2018).
•The human rights movement as we know it today took shape during the
1970, when it profoundly reshaped our hopes for an improved humanity
Human Rights in Recent History:
The most powerful ideology
• “A rather important aspect of the context for the (human rights)
movement’s emergence is … the rise in that period of the neo-liberal
version of ‘private’ capitalism, with its now familiar policy prescription of
privatisation, deregulation and state retreat from social provision. To its
influential enthusiasts then and now, that is the last utopia. …” (Susan
•Human rights law and movements ignored material equality (Moyn, 2018).
Human Rights in
an Unequal World
• According to Oxfam’s (2019) analysis, as
of 2018, 26 people, the richest
billionaires, owned the same wealth as
the 3.8 billion people who make up the
poorest half of humanity, down from
43 people the year before (Oxfam,
2019, p. 6).
•Legal analysis of Article 24 paragraph-by-paragraph,
•Drafting history and discussions from the preparatory works'
documents (e.g., Ad Hoc Committee Sessions).
•Examining how the CRPD Committee, which monitors the
implementation of the CRPD, interpret Article 24 through:
a. 54 Concluding Observations on the reports of states
produced between 2011 and 2017 and
b. General Comment No. 4 (2016): interpretive of the CRPD.
•Relevant legal and policy literature.
1. Introduction and Background
2. Travaux Préparatoires
3. Paragraph 1 (Chapeau): The Right of Persons with Disabilities to
4. Paragraph 2
4.1 Paragraph 2(a): Non-Exclusion
4.2. Paragraph 2(b)
4.2.1 Access to an Inclusive, Quality, and Free Primary Education and
Secondary Education on an Equal Basis
4.2.2 On an Equal Basis with Others in the Communities in which They Live
4.3 Paragraph 2(c): Reasonable Accommodation
4.4 Paragraph 2(d): Individualized Support
4.5 Paragraph 2(e): The Educational Environment
4.5.1 Full Inclusion
4.5.2 Full Inclusion as Totally Supportive Environments
4.5.3 Special Education
4.5.4 The Right to Choose a School 21
5. Paragraph 3
5.2 Environments which Maximize Academic and Social Development for
Students with Sensory Disabilities
5.3 Appropriate Measures—Facilitating Learning
5.4 Narrow View of Appropriate Measures
6. Paragraph 4
6.1 Appropriate Measures—Teacher Training
6.2 Prioritizing Certain Disabilities
7. Paragraph 5: Tertiary Education and Life-Long Learning
Merit and Value of the CRPD
•The CRPD has significant merit and value for:
•However, article 24 raises some questions.
Inclusive Education System (1)
•The concept of inclusive education lacks explicit definition in article 24
leaving its meaning open to interpretation, as the Russian Federation, for
example, emphasized at the discussions of the 6th and 7th session of the Ad
•Many use this term to refer to the placement of students with disabilities in
general education classrooms for the duration of the school day or a
significant portion of it.
•What kind of placement?
1. The term sometimes denotes not only a student’s placement but also the
specialized, individualized supports and services necessary to allow a
student to make meaningful educational progress in a mainstream
placement —we might call this the robust version of inclusion.
2. Other times the term refers to placement alone and connotes access to a
mainstream setting without necessarily assuming the provision of any
additional supports or services—this is a superficial version of inclusion.
–General Comment No 4 by the CRPD Committee (2016):
Co-teaching is not mentioned. No mention of special
education teachers. 24
Inclusive Education System (2)
•Para. 1 contains phrase “inclusive education system”.
•A thorough understanding of the key word system is important.
A system does not imply uniformity or homogeneity in all
respects. This was emphasized by Thailand, the IDC and
others during the travaux préparatoires.
•UNESCO commented “we also support the stance of Thailand
indicating that inclusiveness does not mean supporting one
model, but that the entire system be inclusive.”
•In general, there was the widespread impression among
delegates of countries and disability organizations that the key
word system imparts an openness to inclusive education,
while at the same time emphasizing the intended goal for a
more inclusive education.
Inclusive Education System (3)
•Inclusiveness can constitute both a feature and a goal of an education
system, but this does not necessarily mean that every school or unit
(e.g., special class, resource room) should operate in the same way as a
general class or adopt the same curriculum.
•This is also captured in a report issued by the World Health Organization
(WHO, 2011) after the CRPD Convention was adopted. The WHO made an
appraisal of the ‘full inclusion’ goal, considering it unrealistic, and
suggested a more flexible approach to placement.
– “Inclusive education seeks to enable schools to serve all children in their
communities. In practice, however, it is difficult to ensure the full inclusion of all
children with disabilities, even though this is the ultimate goal. Countries vary
widely in the numbers of children with disabilities who receive education in either
mainstream or segregated settings, and no country has a fully inclusive system.
A flexible approach to placement is important: in the United States of America,
for example, the system aims to place children in the most integrated setting
possible, while providing for more specialized placement where this is considered
necessary. Educational needs must be assessed from the perspective of what is
best for the individual and the available financial and human resources within the
country context. Some disability advocates have made the case that it
should be a matter of individual choice whether mainstream or segregated
settings meet the needs of the child.” (WHO, 2011, p. 210). 26
Subpara 2(e): Full Inclusion
•The primary function of paragraph 2 is to operationalize article
24’s central concept of an inclusive education system.
•Full inclusion typically implies the abolition of every form of
special education outside the general education classroom.
•Mary Warnock a renowned advocate for the inclusion
movement in the UK and worldwide, has argued that the right
to learn is not the same as the right to learn in the same
environment and that, in considering placement, we should not
be indifferent to educational outcomes.
•The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) (2007) has argued
that physical presence does not mean mental and social
presence or commitment to learning.
as Totally Supportive Environments
•An alternative interpretation of the phrase full inclusion could
solve the aforementioned contradiction in the provisions of sub-
•During the preparatory works, the term was mainly addressed
in the discussions of the 6th session.
•Throughout the negotiations of the drafting process and after
the passage of the CRPD, the WFD (2017) advocated the
following meaning: ‘full inclusion’ often means totally
supportive environments, even if they are not in general
Special Education (1)
• The absence of ‘special education’ and ‘special needs’ in article 24 is a great
•The silence on special education settings reveals a discontinuity between
the CRPD and previous policies generated by the UN system. For example,
–Rule 6 of the SREOPD (1993) acknowledged “that in some instances
special education may currently be considered to be the most
appropriate form of education for some students with disabilities.”
–Although, the UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement (1994) is often
regarded as providing support for full inclusion, this view is not accurate.
Precisely, it reads, “We call upon all governments and urge them to …
adopt as a matter of law or policy the principle of inclusive education,
enrolling all children in regular schools, unless there are compelling
reasons for doing otherwise.”
•Several countries (Japan, Kenya, Senegal, the Russian Federation,
Israel, and China) insisted on a more explicit reference to special
education, or realism-based approach according to the words of
the Chair’s session.
Special Education (2)
•Disability organizations such as the WFD, the World Blind Union, and the
World Federation of the Deaf-Blind also supported a full spectrum of
special education settings.
•Two countries (the UK and Mauritius) have made interpretive declarations
and/or reservations, which emphasize that inclusiveness of an education
system does not preclude the existence of specialized units such as special
classes and special schools.
–The UK Joint Committee on Human Rights, consisting of twelve
members appointed from both the House of Commons and the House of
Lords, justified the relevant UK declaration and reservation as follows:
“we therefore understand why the Government feels it necessary to enter
a reservation and an interpretative declaration to make clear its
understanding that a commitment to inclusive education is not
incompatible with the continued existence of special schools.”
•In the discussions on the Draft General Comment No 4 by the CRPD
Committee, Australia and Germany resisted a narrow interpretation of
article 24 as ‘right to inclusive education’ and argued for the maintenance of
a multifaceted and flexible education system that includes specialized
units and effectively responds to special educational needs. 30
Prioritizing Certain Disabilities
•Paragraphs 3 and 4 of article 24 contain lists of appropriate measures that
address the needs of students with blindness, deafness, and
•However, article 24 remains silent on the specific learning needs of
students with other disabilities, such as mind-related disabilities, and
acknowledges only a fragment of the spectrum and continuum of atypical
•To make a comparison, the non-binding Rule 6 of the Standard Rules on
the Equalization of Opportunities (1993) is more generous for persons facing
mind-related challenges (e.g., intellectual disabilities, severe psychosocial
disorders, learning disabilities).
•Where the barriers to educational attainment are more invisible and
deeply intertwined with the neural architecture of learning (severe
intellectual disabilities, low-functioning autism, severe communication
disorders, severe psychosocial disorders, learning disabilities, childhood
trauma, and some chronic illnesses) meaningful educational opportunity
will likely require much more than simply opening up the schoolhouse
Similarities and Differences between the IDEA (including
litigation) and Article 24 of the CRPD (notably CRPD
Dimensions IDEA CRPD Committee
Free education Free early education,
primary and secondary
education (ages 3-21)
Free primary education;
No obligation for free secondary
education or early education
Reasonableness Appropriate education
at no cost to parents;
Rowley (1982) and
Appropriate measures only for students
who are blind, deaf or deaf-blind;
Reasonable accommodation as
obligation on an individual basis,
activated by demand of an individual; the
concept is accompanied by two inhibitory
barriers, disproportionate and undue
burden, which are negotiable
Public education Public education is a
strong priority Public and private schools;
Access education in both public and
private academic institutions on an
equal basis with others
(General Comment No. 4, §23) 32
Similarities and Differences between the IDEA and
Article 24 (notably CRPD Committee’s guidelines)
IEPs for academic,
behavioral and social goals;
IEP procedural and
Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); Emphasis
social goals (i.e., transition) and learning
Not explicit IEPs procedural and substantial
(General Comment No. 4,
§32, 45, 69, 70)
and Intensive Instruction
Continuum of Alternative
(CRPD), and full inclusion
Strong priority of general classroom
No description of features of instruction other
than that for students with sensory impairments;
No prediction for special education teachers;
No reference to observable outcomes.
•The CRPD sets a lower standard than the IDEA regarding several dimensions of
appropriate education for SWD. The IDEA refers to appropriate education of
all SWD, and Endrew case (2017) attempts to specify appropriateness further.
•The CRPD Committee restricts the discussion of appropriateness to persons
with sensory impairments, thereby prioritizing types of disabilities.
The Right to Choose a School
Social and Cultural
Convention on the
Rights of the Child
The States Parties …
undertake to have respect
for the liberty of parents
and, when applicable,
guardians to choose
for their children schools
other than those
established by the public
No part of the present article or
article 28 shall be construed so
as to interfere with the
individuals and bodies to
establish and direct educational
s, subject always to the
observance of the principle set
forth in paragraph 1 of the
present article and to the
requirements that the education
given in such institutions shall
conform to such minimum
standards as may be laid down
by the State.
Parents have a
prior right to
choose the kind
that shall be
given to their
•However, article 24 is silent on the Right to Choose a School.
• The CRPD Committee arbitrarily stated “the right of the individual learner,
and not, in the case of children, the right of a parent or caregiver.” (General
Comment No. 4, para. 10).
1. Article 24 seeks to eliminate discrimination against and
equalize educational opportunities for Persons with
➢Article 24 makes explicit that the general right to education
also applies specifically to PWD.
➢Thus, Article 24's has value per se.
2. However, Article 24 and its interpretation by the CRPD
Committee (2016) operate predominantly within an anti-
➢Promoting status equality,
➢Prioritizing sameness of educational treatment,
➢Failure to recognize the full spectrum of disability-related
educational risks an uneven distribution of educational
opportunity and socio-economic justice among PWD.
Discussion: Remarks (1)
3. It diverges from a socio-economic right paradigm of the
▪Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,
▪International legal instruments such as the
❖International Covenant on Economic,
❖Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), and t
❖the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC,
▪and Rule 6 on Education of the Standard Rules on the
Equalization of Opportunities (1993), which for the most
part have considered the right to education a socio-
•due to financial resources required for its realization
•its social value, based on shared communal benefits
that render it a semi-public good.
•A balance between anti-
discrimination paradigm and inclusion
(civil rights aspects) and socio-
economic justice/special needs
education (welfare aspects).
1. This would maximize inclusion,
equality and full participation
wherever appropriate and working to
improve mainstream settings and
alter cultural and social attitudes
➢promoting politics of
from the top in an
Unequal World? A
• Based on Bronfenbrenner’s
(1979)’ Ecological Systems
2. While also ensuring appropriate support and a continuum
of services and placements that:
•resists homogenization of PWD and
•strives to maximize learning, educational and economic
attainment for each person based on his/her particular
➢promoting politics of
and material equality
(distributive and social
•This facilitates the material
basis for empowerment to
people with disabilities.
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