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New Report on Education as a Constitutional Right in Foreign Countries

The following is a guest post by Luis Acosta, a division chief in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

An interesting aspect of comparative constitutional analysis considers how differences in countries’ histories and legal cultures are reflected in national constitutions. A recent Law Library of Congress report highlights such differences with respect to one particular issue: whether education is treated as a constitutional right. The report, Constitutional Right to an Education, surveys twenty jurisdictions throughout the world with diverse political, cultural, and economic experiences. A brief comparative summary is included.

State Department high officials address Inter-American education conference. Washington, D.C., Nov. 9. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Dr. Isiah Bowman, President of the Johns Hopkins University, and Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles photographed today at the luncheon-meeting of the conference on inter-American relations in the field of education meeting today and tomorrow here. Secretary Hull told the gathering of educators from both South and North America that they must resolve to work together 'to accomplish that function which is rightfully theirs--to guard, to enrich, and to forward the civilization which, in the high calling of education, all of us must seek to serve'. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.27632

State Department high officials address Inter-American education conference. Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 1939 (Harris & Ewing, photographer). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.27632.

The report found that while all of the surveyed countries recognize education as a right, fifteen of them provide for the right in their national constitutions, while five provide for the right only through legislation and/or in subnational constitutions.

Two of the surveyed jurisdictions, New Zealand and England and Wales, have “unwritten,” uncodified constitutions. While New Zealand’s education statute is not deemed constitutional, in England and Wales the right to education appears in the Human Rights Act 1998, a statute that is arguably constitutional in nature.

This report is one of many multinational and single-country reports on diverse subjects available on the Law Library’s website.

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