Institute of Education

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Prioritizing Education Law Agenda to Better Deliver on Global Sustainability Goals

Prioritizing Education Law Agenda to Better Deliver on Global Sustainability Goals

Dr. Jan de Groof, a world-renowned authority on international & comparative education law who is Professor with the College of Europe (Bruges, Belgium) and Tilburg University (the Netherlands), and also heads the European Association for Education Law and Policy (ELA), has recently joined the HSE Institute of Education as Academic Supervisor with the Centre for Education Law.

During his recent visit to Moscow, we talked to Dr. de Groof about today’s top-priority education law agenda and the way multiple stakeholders’ commitments to striking a better balance in education rights help carve out more robust paths to global sustainability.

I believe all are agreed that education is the fundamental pillar of social integrity and the unconditional driving force of innovative development and economic growth. Various learning environments ultimately aim to enable an ample influx of more resourceful and up-to-date human capital to better face up to present-day community, national, and global challenges.

We can set ourselves more firmly on track to long-term global prosperity and sustainability by advancing appropriate teaching and learning, and above that, which is absolutely crucial, through better upholding educational and allied human rights of everyone involved. This indeed spans an immense range of stakeholders – from children, parents and educators, and through businesses, public policy agencies, nations, and international associations.   

Accordingly, the legal framework underlying everything ‘in and of’ education involves an agenda of far-reaching magnitude and diversity, which in its basic and fundamental imperatives derives from UNESCO’s global sustainability commitments, where Sustainability Goal No. Four calls for decent education for everyone, through their lifetime and across the globe.

“As I travel extensively, teaching and advising on various facets of education law, I always ask my audience about what human rights they value most. And the answer that unwaveringly tops the list is ‘education.’    

Reflecting this ultimate commitment to help all nations capitalize on capable and visionary present-day as well as next-generation human resource through best-practice L&D settings of quality and excellence, legal inputs in education envisage, inter alia, fueling robust policies & governance, maintaining appropriate instruction, generating new funding opportunities, especially to support at-risk communities, boosting labor productivity by adding competencies to the older generation, fostering youth talent, and ensuring new-format learning achievements are properly certified and recognized.

That said though, if you come to think deeper about what it takes to make the above sustainability ambition – decent education for everyone as the key to social prosperity and integrity – transpire to its fullest, the actual agenda turns out to go a way beyond these most apparent areas. For instance, it is also concerned with such sensitive and controversial domains as less advantageous groups who would like to avail of their right to have children through assisted technology, whereby becoming more socially responsible and engaged in exercising their best capacity for parenthood and raising apt young talent – and many more aspects alike.

Taking stock of the above, among all human rights, the right to education is absolutely vital, ranking on par with the right to live, to have progeny and so on.

Education, by embracing the best intent and efforts of all the parties involved, endows individuals with such fundamental aptitudes as growth mindset, free will, critical thinking, and a humanistic acumen that urges people to promote a better living for others through deeper personal commitment and deploying the best of one’s knowledge, skill, and resource. Accordingly, it is education that empowers one to become a person of honor and dignity – in consistently respecting the dignity of others by exercising one’s rights and duties in the most noble and virtuous manner.

“Sustainability essentially means that all parties to education should act openly and responsibly to one another, in an environment of meaningful and engaging multi-stakeholder discussions that serve as the best groundwork for more cohesive and visionary decision-making. Sustainable development is always about being mutually considerate, respectful, and aware of other perspectives. 

As a fair mouthpiece of all the stakeholders in learning & development, education’s legal framework aims to streamline and clearly articulate their needs and aspirations, seeking to better uphold their rights by advancing transparent environments of open and proactive multi-prism dialogue. Through such aligned and synergistic efforts of parents, educators, businesses, and policy leaders, education gains a new momentum to carve out the most decent course for the entire society, as the better advocated right to education ultimately comes to guarantee the right to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

What stands behind the above triangle, ‘equity,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘inclusion?’ Obviously, regardless of the nation or institutional level, present-day learning environments need to be increasingly internationalized, duly recognizing and following the inspiration of the ‘new world.’ As booming transdisciplinary technology and globalization have prompted a string of startling novelties, including fast-paced network economy and cross-border network society at large, these drastic turnarounds are calling for greater social mobility and individual capacities of the ‘global citizen’ as crucial determinants in long-term success and economic wellbeing at community and national levels.

To stay competitive and ‘socially productive’ in today’s actively reframing skill & job market, one needs to maintain an ongoing exposure to the most up-to-date sources of knowledge, learning through one’s lifetime in a shrewd and agile self-directed manner. This imperative is reflected in the Global Sustainability Agenda’s top-priority commitment to promoting lifelong learning as a guideline social value – and also by qualitatively upgrading relevant education environments.

“Education development should never be torn apart from the national past. The ‘nova’ and the ‘vetera’ are two essential complementary elements together forming a synergistic, holistic unity of novelty functional syllabus and perennial intrinsic values that will steer the younger generation along the only appropriate life-course of diversity acceptance and truly humanistic leadership.             

These new education settings for the ‘new world’ should yield more powerful learning and human capital outputs in relentlessly drawing on two vital principles. First, it is a combination of national legacy and innovation – a robust synthesis of ‘nova et vetera’ as the only way for education systems to keep going and succeed in the long term, since no global best practice ever springs out of oblivion, but always takes root from carefully rethought cultural heritage and mutually respectful collaboration of local cultures.

This point is also relevant for today’s clearly pronounced call for more distinctive mission and vision in education. Indeed, what’s the use of learning when it is all about mastering technical and functional skills alone, with character development and other relevant aspects being mostly overlooked or even completely abandoned? How will the younger generation lead, teach, and advise if they have not adopted the basic humanistic values, concepts, and attitudes that ensure the continuity of the human race and knowledge as the latter’s principal ontological attribute?

The matter of maintaining and transmitting proper moral values is of paramount importance for any school or university, since their ‘value approach’ – as reflected in the curriculum, staffing policy, respect for diversity, leadership attitudes and alike – will often bring about more effective real-life changes than mere adoption of formal policies.

“Since it takes decades for education to visibly reframe moral and ethical standards on a nation-wide scale, nurturing the right attitudes and values through sharing a clear and unambiguous vision, and through maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect within a learning perimeter is something to be prioritized at all times.

Next, what we are observing in today’s increasingly network-driven environment, which has prompted dozens of new and higher-payback socioeconomic cooperation modes, is expanding intelligence partnerships, thriving multi-format and multi-stakeholder liaison in education, and an upswing in collaborative learning.

Sure, education systems as previously slow-paced, longer-track stage-by-stage learning hierarchies are flattening and transforming to feature more agile, modular and complementary curricular delivered in diverse formats, this reflecting growing social diversity, which in its very heart echoes one of the pivotal UNESCO principles to be always kept in mind: “All individuals and groups have the right to be different, to consider themselves as different, and to be regarded and respected as such.”

These proliferating learning networks, inspired by deeper social involvement of various institutions including public establishments and private centers, non-profit startups, family endeavors, parent associations, etc., have marked sizeable improvements in social and educational pluralism. Promoting more widespread learning choice and opportunity – or diversity – is always the best mechanism to ensure different social groups profit from deeper inclusion and equity in education – and hence from greater capacity to gear up their life prospects through improved socioeconomic parity, mobility, and preparedness to face up to multicultural world.

Fostering this mutually supportive educational diversity, where various players learn to respect and better cooperate with one another for the benefit of society at large, makes up the core of the whole educational process. 


Having on board such a globally recognized professional as Dr. de Groof, with his unmatched expertise in law scholarship, diverse instructional experience, and far-reaching roles with international policymaking organizations, heralds an important milestone for our Center and HSE University’s other law-focused divisions.

Looking ahead, we plan to pursue close collaboration with HSE’s Faculty of Law in expanding our curriculum to add a number of world-class programs in international and comparative education law, where we will also emphasize research projects led by Dr. de Groof.

Another priory is to boost cross-border cooperation in the field by fostering networking with global education law associations, more active exposures to international legal conferences, etc.

Szymon Jankiewicz, Director of IOE Centre for Education Law