Ignasi Grau, director of OIDEL, presents the 2023 Freedom of Education Index results at UIC Barcelona

The presentation took place during the seminar ‘Is Freedom of Education a Human Right?’ organised by the Faculty of Education Sciences of UIC Barcelona. The NGO OIDEL, which specialises in the right to education and freedom of education, has produced the report analysing educational pluralism worldwide since 2002

Spain ranks thirteenth in the world ranking measured by the 2023 Freedom of Education Index, a report prepared since 2002 by the NGO OIDEL, specialising in education policies, the right to education and freedom of education. Ignasi Grau, director of OIDEL, presented the results of the report at the seminar ‘Is Freedom of Education a Human Right?’ organised by the Faculty of Education Sciences of UIC Barcelona.

The report, which analyses educational pluralism in 157 countries, that is, 98% of the world population, places Spain behind countries like Thailand, Malta or Lebanon and ahead of the United States, which ranks 19, Norway in 29 or Sweden, located at number 39 of the ranking. Ireland leads the rankings, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Chile and Finland.

Over 30 academics have participated in the preparation of the report, which has taken into account indicators such as the legal possibility of establishing or running non-governmental schools, the public funding of these schools, and the public funding of these schools in calculating the Freedom of Education Index. The enrolment rate in these centres and the enrolment rate in relation to the total percentage in primary education is another indicator.

Almost half of the states offer little financial aid

The study concludes that 78% of the countries analysed offer some form of state funding to non-governmental schools (NGS), i.e. those that are not state-funded. The concept of public or private centres changes depending on the country, according to the authors of the report. 47% of countries provide low or poorly defined economic support and only 22% of countries finance the total investment costs of these centres.

Another conclusion of the report is that the relationship between high-income countries and higher NGS financing is not always in line. For example, in countries such as Peru, the state invests more than other countries with better economic conditions such as Switzerland.

Enrolment in non-government centres has not experienced significant growth in 2023, except in some countries such as Angola, Nigeria, Hungary and India, which has seen the greatest increase of 28%.  

Currently, 43% of countries allow home education, compared to 55% that do not. Since the 2016 Report highlighted an increase in countries allowing this education system, there have been no major increases. In this regard, Grau pointed out that “governments are more open to teaching at home since the closure of schools as a result of COVID-19.” The 2023 study highlights the increase in this educational model in the United States, where 8% of Americans have chosen this system.

Freedom of education, a human right

During his speech, Ignasi Grau, insisted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has established since 1948 that freedom of education is a human right and points out that “the father or mother has a preferential right to choose the form of education that will be given to their child”. That is why it is important, according to Grau, to protect this right.

According to the specialist in educational policies, “the disconnection between the educational project and family values can be traumatic.” Accordingly, he stressed that “societies are increasingly pluralistic, so it is very important to take into account cultural identity and that education must be linked to it”.

He also said that the latest studies analysing the relationship between the results of the PISA report and social cohesion indicate that “children with families who are involved in their education have better academic results.” Grau added that the disconnection between education and the family affects a decline in performance and that, therefore, “parents must be allies in education policies”.

The speaker was invited by UIC Barcelona and presented by Dr Enric Vidal, dean of the Faculty of Education Sciences at UIC Barcelona.