What is GELF?

What is GELF?

The Global Education Law Forum or ‘GELF’ is a network of scholars and practitioners active in education law and policy. GELF is registered as a Foundation according to Dutch law with headquarters based in Amsterdam.

GELF aims at awareness raising, development of expertise and improvement of policy and advocacy in education law in all continents, with a particular focus on countries in transition. The GELF Board, Bureau, Scientific Committee and Advisory Council is composed of academics and practitioners from all continents.

Why does it exist?

Numbers of learners around the globe are steadily rising due to demographic reasons and the reduction of poverty. Providing all these learners with quality education is an enormous challenge. Many issues need to be addressed, ranging from teachers training and safe environment to adapting curricula and ensuring fair assessment. Learners need to be prepared for life as local and global citizens, with due respect for their diverse capacities and diverse cultures.Students in primary schools

All this needs to be embedded in good governance, human dignity and effective policies. The right to education and rights in education are essential in dealing with student and school diversity, but expertise on these fundamental concepts is relatively rare and scattered. In 2015, a group of concerned individuals, active in education, research and public administration, decided to join their forces and provide a concerted helping hand to all those who want to formulate and implement sound education principles, policies, codes, rules and regulations.

The initiators have decided to set up the Global Education Law Forum (GELF) as a non-profit consortium with an aim to address these issues both from a practical and a scholarly perspective. GELF aims to contribute to the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goal number 4: ‘Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’ and the UNESCO accompanying Education 2030 Framework for Action.

What is GELFs program?

GELF aims at having a measurable impact on the enhancement of education rights worldwide. Its actions range from awareness raising to expertise development, policy improvement and advocacy. Three flagship actions have been identified to realise the aims of GELF. They are accompanied by a series of support and dissemination actions.

 A. Flagship actions

  1. Education right law cases
  2. International Monitor for Education Rights
  3. International Covenant of Education Rights

B. Support actions

  1. Focus networks of national officials and experts
  2. National and regional support program
  3. Research support program
  4. Consultation and training

C. Dissemination actions

  1. World Education Law and Policy Assessment Report
  2. Global Conference on Education Rights (first edition hosted by WISE)
  3. News sharing

For more information see the GELF blueprint Work Programme.

A short introduction to the three flagship actions:

Education right law cases

Legal actions and landmark court decisions can change the education landscape as history has shown. Selected cases will address important issues such as the discrimination of students on the basis of nationality and the lack of education rights of refugees. The cases will be assigned to teams composed of legal, policy and media experts from different countries. GELF will thus help citizens, lawyers and diplomats in addressing breaches of internationally protected education rights.

International Monitor for Education Rights

Monitoring is key for policy accountability and improvement, nationally and internationally. GELF has prepared an innovative assessment framework that will support the enhancement of education rights through its easily accessible comparative overviews of the state of play and of best practices. The findings of IMER will be published in shorter publications twice a year and every second year in the ‘World Education Law and Policy Assessment Report. IMER will be the fruit of global co-operation among international researchers and Country Editors. The release of the Report will be accompanied with supporting publications, media campaigns and targeted presentations.

International Covenant of Education Rights

GELF will launch the debate on the need to engage on the long road to arrive at an ‘International Covenant of Education Rights’. Such a covenant, which is currently lacking, would increase awareness amongst all parties concerned on the importance education rights, their further development and effective enforcement. The Covenant should not only codify what is in existing legal texts, but also address big societal challenges with regards to rights to and rights in education, including issues such as:

  1. Equitable opportunities for all to access and complete quality education.
  2. Curricula fostering individual growth and innovation.
  3. Fair assessment of learning outcomes.
  4. Freedom of parents to choose or set up a school for their children and being involved.
  5. Good governance of education systems and institutes and the cultural dimension thereof.
  6. Safety and respectful behaviour.
  7. Cross-border teaching and learning.

These seven topics (tentative list) will form a ‘Global agenda for Education Rights’ to be adopted at the GELF Launching Conference in November 2019.

Sample of GELF working methods to be applied in general

  1. Consultation and alignment with existing professional networks, awareness agencies and think tanks.
  2. Promotion and support for joint research at all levels.
  3. Global conferences and expert meetings, including regional and global workshops with researchers and policy makers and accompanying publications.
  4. International networks of representatives of stakeholders, incl. national policymakers and researchers.
  5. Regional officers and ambassadors to support organisations and individuals active in national and regional education law and policy associations.
  6. Helping individuals with the right contacts, moral and possibly financial support to follow up their policy improvement actions and publications.
  7. Sharing and matching of expertise questions with student groups of faculties around the world as topics to learn from and contribute to in their courses.
  8. Silent diplomacy in cases of breaches of law and assistance bringing cases to court.
  9. Student participation. e.g. traineeships whereby students do research and help to solve legal and policy issues (human rights clinic) or contribute to organisation and communication activities of GELF.
  10. Support for training courses, modules or full programs of study.
  11. Social media campaigns, publications, website and press conferences.
  12. Reviewing of legislation and (mediation for) drafting of legislation.
  13. Opinion papers, policy papers and recommendations for research, policy and awareness at global, regional and national level.
  14. In order to reach its goals, GELF will work together with other organisations active around education policy, whilst respecting each other’s identity.

National autonomy in education policy in the context of international human rights regarding education

GELF sees education as a broad, multi-faceted, fundamental human right. Its full implementation is crucial for the development of the capacity to enjoy all other human rights, be they socio-economic, cultural (linguistic), political or developmental. Education law and policy needs to evolve in order to realise education of the highest quality adaptable to the interests of students and societies. While both the content of the national school curriculum and the structure of the national education system belong to the domain of national policy, policymakers around the world have to deal with many similar issues that are comparable.

We are inspired by the idea of comparative research in education focusing on good governance, human dignity and effective policies in education. Comparative thinking helps to lower the degree of heated debates regarding different issues of national education policy. When we compare these debates externally or internationally we can learn that choices can be made to reconcile the two most contested values in education policy: freedom of or in education and equal chances for all in education. Such reconciliation is necessary in all aspects of education policy, from funding and ensuring equal access to education to eliminating all forms of discrimination in education.