Do you know your rights of participation in compulsory education centres?

There are four parental rights that enable a participation of quality in educational centres:

According to their characteristics, those rights can be grouped into two categories: individual parental rights (right to information, right to school choice and right to appeal) and collective parental rights (right of participation).

Individual parental rights.

Right to information:

In order to be an active and responsible agent for an education of quality, parents should be provided with relevant and accessible information, through bulletin announcements, websites, meetings with school managers, written information sent home and so on. The information should also be adapted to parents’ characteristics and needs (lack of language skills, sensory deficiency, social and educational barriers, etc.)


The adaptation of the information reflects the level of political commitment of authorities to achieve an inclusive education that takes into account the specific needs of immigrant populations and religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities. The authorities must provide clear information that involves parental rights and duties.

Parents should have accurate information on at least five essential aspects:

a. the criteria of access to compulsory education

b. the organisation of the school system

c. the educative project and aims of the educational centre

d. the organisation and functioning of the educational centre

e. the assessment systems used in the educational centre.


The right to choose the educational centre:

Parents should be able to choose the centre that is considered most suitable and appropriate in relation to their own beliefs, ideas or educational values, in order to facilitate a higher degree of co-responsibility and effective involvement in the educational project of the centre.


In order to make the choice possible, a variety of school projects as well as necessary financial resources are needed. This would allow parents to choose schools other than those founded by public authorities. In the report, we have not used the word “private” school, which is commonly used, in order to avoid ideological connotations. We have preferred the terminology of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Right of appeal:

This right allows parents to effectively participate in the decisions taken by the educational administration of the centre or school, without affecting their children's educational activity.


Thus for example, the right to appeal will be relevant to the extent that parents can challenge administrative decisions. For example, for the rejection of a child's demand to join the requested centre, or regarding imposed disciplinary measures, or involving students' grades, that prevent or hinder the right of participation.

Finally, it is important to determine when school participatory and governing bodies give decisions.

It is also relevant to know whether the instances to which parents can address their enquiries define a period of time for their decisions to be taken. If, for example, a parent appeals against the dismissal of his child and receives the answer in the middle of the school year, the appeal mechanism - although existing - would unfortunately be considered ineffective. The same would happen if parents do not obtain a justification in case of a refusal. In any case, it is not enough that forms of appeal exist. It is also necessary that the bodies responsible for solving those issues justify their decision within the accepted deadline.

Collective rights of parents.

Right to parental involvement.

Parents have the right to participate in the governance and control of educational institutions, both at the national and regional levels and also within the educational centres.


Parents should be able to make decisions at all levels in order for those bodies to be truly democratic and effective. Usually there are three levels of educational management: the Central State, the region and the educational centre. In some countries, (for example Switzerland and Belgium) there are only two levels of educational management: the regional level and the school. This is because their different regions, counties or communities, have absolute sovereignty in compulsory education, and therefore, lack a formal structure for parental involvement at national level.

In any case, the right to effective parental involvement in education requires a basic degree of autonomy with regards to pedagogy, organisation as well for the appeal process within the school. Similarly, we must ensure an adequate representation of parents in the collegiate governing bodies of the educational community.

In any case, the right to effective parental involvement in education requires a basic degree of autonomy with regards to pedagogy, organisation as well for the appeal process within the school. Similarly, we must ensure an adequate representation of parents in the collegiate governing bodies of the educational community.

- Setting up ways and means to obtain the views of parents.

- Offering training that allows them to understand the educational system, to guide their children and answer to their needs, to participate in decisions within the school, both at regional and at national level.


Activities for organizations and associations of parents

After reading the previous section, we propose a set of group activities for further reflection and analysis.

Activity: Nominal Group Technique (NGT)

Objective: Recognise the rights that enable quality participation of parents in their children's schools.


Estimated time: One session of two hours may be sufficient for this exercise.

When to perform this activity?: For in-depth work, it is recommended to carefully read the supporting documents listed in the module.

Dynamics and development of the activity:

Mothers and fathers split up into four working teams of four to six members. Each team analyses and comments on the meaning and the educational implications of the right s/he has worked on.

Team 1: Right to information. 
Team 2: Right to choose. 
Team 3: Right of appeal. 
Team 4: Right of parental involvement in governance and control of educational institutions

A participant takes note of the different ideas and comments within its team and tries to find links with everyday aspects of life in the school.

Once the discussion in teams has taken place (about 30 minutes of team work), the coordinator asks the team to summarise and prioritise the ideas according to the importance attached by the team. Finally, the results are presented to all the groups.

Role of the coordinator: Elaborate technical proposals. S/he prepares the final conclusions; s/he monitors the working time and ensures that the intensity of the debate or discussion does not disturb the other teams.


It might be interesting and enriching for all during the plenary session to reflect in writing (posters, stickers, documents...) on the definitions, comments or ideas most relevant to the team work.