Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education

Report provided to Scottish Ministers by Professor Ken Muir on the replacement of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, reform of Education Scotland and removal of its inspection function.

Appendix F: United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

Building an education system that is directed to the purposes described in Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Children's human rights are entitlements set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). They apply to everyone under the age of 18 and aim to ensure children grow up in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. These rights reflect a minimum standard, sometimes referred to as the floor not the ceiling, therefore, policy, practice and law ought to go above and beyond the rights laid out within the UNCRC.

In 2021 the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a bill which will incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law. This means that every right of every child in Scotland must be protected, respected and fulfilled as set out in the UNCRC. Fulfilling the rights of the child, enshrined in law, is not negotiable. All efforts by publicly funded bodies with an interest in education must be built from the basis of Article 29 of the UNCRC. In addition, General Comment No. 1: The Aims of Education (Article 29) (2001)[64] help us to form a full understanding of the meaning and implementation of Article 29.

To discover the extent to which Article 29 of the UNCRC is embedded in Scotland's education system and how children's human rights can be further implemented through education reforms, it is important first of all to understand the foundations currently in existence. Through a rights lens consideration should be given to answering the following questions. Where are we at now? To what extent is the educational experience of children and young people meeting their needs as rights-holders? And what needs to change, what needs built into educational reform?

The children and young people's consultation (facilitated by Children's Parliament/Scottish Youth Parliament/Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights)) asked learners to consider whether their education experience reflects the promises made in Article 29. While more detail is presented in the full children and young people report, suffice to say that findings highlight the work that must be done across the system, and with all the stakeholders involved in education, to begin to use the language and understandings that a rights-based educational offer and system requires.

Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

  • (a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
  • (b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
  • (c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
  • (d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
  • (e) The development of respect for the natural environment.



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