The Universal Right to Education

Justification, Definition, and Guidelines

By Joel Spring

© 2000 – Routledge

202 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780805835489
pub: 2000-03-01
US Dollars$46.95
Hardback: 9780805835472
pub: 2000-04-01
US Dollars$105.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

In this book, Joel Spring offers a powerful and closely reasoned justification and definition for the universal right to education--applicable to all cultures--as provided for in Article 26 of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One sixth of the world's population, nearly 855 million people, are functionally illiterate, and 130 million children in developing countries are without access to basic education. Spring argues that in our crowded global economy, educational deprivation has dire consequences for human welfare. Such deprivation diminishes political power. Education is essential for providing citizens with the tools for resisting totalitarian and repressive governments and economic exploitation. What is to be done? The historically grounded, highly original analysis and proposals Spring sets forth in this book go a long way toward answering this urgent question.

Spring first looks at the debates leading up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, to see how the various writers dealt with the issue of cultural differences. These discussions provide a framework for examining the problem of reconciling cultural differences with universal concepts. He next expands on the issue of education and cultural differences by proposing a justification for education that is applicable to indigenous peoples and minority cultures and languages. This justification is then applied to all people within the current global economy. Acknowledging that the right to an education is inseparable from children's rights, he uses the concept of a universal right to education to justify children's rights, and, in turn, applies his definition of children's liberty rights to the concept of education. His synthesis of cultural, language, and children's rights provides the basis for a universal justification and definition for the right to education -- which, in the concluding chapters, Spring uses to propose universal guidelines for human rights education, and instruction in literacy, numeracy, cultural centeredness, and moral economy.


"Joel Spring's examination of education as a universal human right provides excellent historical background and information on recent international agreements affecting this right, as well as original contributions of justification, definitions, and guidelines for its implementation….the author's guidelines provide springboards for discussion in teacher education and among teachers in the field…"

Comparative Education Review

"Timely, incredibly significant…fills a huge gap in the current educational literature. The focus on children's rights, broadly conceived, is both important and valuable….There are simply no comparable works available."

Timothy Reagan

University of Connecticut

"This is a very important book. There is nothing like it in the field. It is more than timely--it is an urgent book, long overdue….What makes it so compelling is that the questions it poses are ones that are being hotly contested today in educational literature. Are there universal rights? Should education have a social justice agenda? Given the neoliberal agenda faced by both developed and developing countries throughout the world, the issues set forth for analysis could not be more pertinent at this time. Of course, there is another reason too why a book like this is so urgent--it deals with crucial issues that intersect current debates around class, race, gender, and sexuality….This book is exceedingly well grounded in current theory and research and contributes significantly to a cluster of intersecting fields, from sociology of education, to curriculum theory, to philosophy of education, to the politics of education….Its controversial approach will provoke wide public debate."

Peter McLaren

University of California at Los Angeles; author, Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, a

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Justifying Human and Educational Rights. Justifying a Universal Right to Education for Indigenous and Minority Cultures. The Right to Education in a Global Culture and Economy. Universal Justification for Education and Children's Rights. A Universal Concept of Education: Human Rights Education and Moral Duties. A Universal Concept of Education: Guidelines for Literacy and Numeracy Instruction. Mediating the Effects of World Culture and Economy. Summary: The Universal Right to Education.

About the Series

Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education

This series focuses on studies of public and private institutions, the media, and academic disciplines that contribute to educating--in the broadest sense--students and the general public. The series welcomes volumes with multicultural perspectives, diverse interpretations, and a range of political points of view from conservative to critical. Books accepted for publication in this series will be written for an academic audience and, in some cases, also for use as supplementary readings in graduate and undergraduate courses.

Topics to be addressed in this series include, but are not limited to, sociocultural, political, and historical studies of

Local, state, national, and international educational systems

Elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities

Public institutions of education such as museums, libraries, and foundations

Computer systems and software as instruments of public education

The popular media as forms of public education

Content areas within the academic study of education, such as curriculum and instruction, psychology, and educational technology

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Philosophy & Social Aspects