Exploring the Enforceability of Refugees’ Right to Education: A Comparative Analysis of Human Rights Treaties

Three international treaties form the backbone of refugees’ legal right to education: The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Nevertheless, a wide gap persists between these favorable international laws and the actual school enrollment of refugee children. This paper presents an empirical analysis of the so-called policy-practice gap in refugee education in order to answer two fundamental questions: What enforcement mechanisms are present in the three international treaties that form the backbone of refugees’ right to education? How do these enforcement mechanisms differ from the enforcement mechanisms in four other international human rights treaties that do not focus specifically on refugees or education? The authors find that the three treaties that address refugees’ right to education are some of the least enforceable in international human rights law. We posit that this finding may be explained by the historic lack of priority given to economic, social, and cultural rights in international law and argue that the unenforceability of the right to an education contributes to the policy-practice gap in refugee education in a direct and significant way.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.33682/xwx5-eau3

The authors discuss their work in the Behind the Pages podcast episode embedded below:

Resource Info

Resource Type

Journal Article


Published by

Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE)

Authored by

Sarah Horsch Carsley and S. Garnett Russell


Education Policy
Human Rights and Children's Rights