L'égalité d'accès à l'éducation et au jeu par Ana K. Espinosa
Texte en anglais.

Which rights come to your mind when you think of child rights? It is highly likely that one of the rights that you thought of is education. Did you think about the access to entertainment and play? As stated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and ratified by more than 196 countries, access to play (Article 31) and to education (Article 28) are rights unique to children and adolescents under 18. In the pursuit of social equality, this comprehensive treaty includes economic, social, cultural, and political rights. One of which we know as the universal right to education. But is play equally accessible as education for children? This blog will answer this question by providing examples of how the right to play needs to be as ensured as the right to education. Finally, I will mention the importance and implications of implementing individualized and playful learning for children.

Is Play as Ensured as Education?

Historically, access to education has aimed for fairness and equality for social and individual’s (i.e., child’s) interests. Undeniably, equal access to education is crucial for children’s development and well-being (e.g., cognitive skills and academic performance), and for achieving opportunities that foster social equality. Nonetheless, authors like Yogman and colleagues (2018) have posited that traditional education has significantly increased and improved but jeopardized children’s access to play and entertainment. In fact, 92% of children attend primary education in the world. In contrast, access to play has been decreasing. From 1981 to 1997, children’s playtime decreased by 25%. Namely, 30% of US preschoolers no longer have recess because of increased academic activities. This decline in playfulness has raised concerns about children’s and adolescents’ mental health – issue that has been recently declared a national emergency in the United States.

Individualized Education

So, if access to play is as crucial for children’s development as education, how can it be equally accessible for children? Would universal access to play make this possible? Hemelsoet (2012) states that universality in rights leaves open spaces for interpretation, relativism, or arbitrariness, making it hard to ensure the protection of the right – in this case, play – in particular contexts. In theory, we can consider equal opportunities for children to play, but unfairness in practice may still occur. Referring to equal and universal access to a right is not enough to ensure access to play or education.

Individualized education has been the promised hope of improving learning. Overall, individualized education provides a myriad of benefits; it analyzes each student’s strengths and weaknesses by incorporating flexible learning opportunities and formative assessments. This type of education helps meet curricular goals, improve academic outcomes, and enhance skills needed in this century, like self-directed learning. However, it has not yet focused on incorporating playfulness. Perhaps, individualized and playful education would help children have largely equal access to both rights.

Implications of Playful Education

Play may be mistakenly considered a frivolous activity; however, research has provided strong evidence on how play helps children develop socio-emotional and cognitive skills. For instance, institutions with a playful-based education (e.g., Montessori schools and children’s museums) accomplish learning goals by involving child-led exploration and play and guiding the child toward a goal. Play can help improve, for instance, language, attention, and memory skills. And play alone can also help children be more honest, think things out before acting, consider other people’s feelings, or be kind to others. Overall, accessible playful education with an individualistic approach could potentially improve both children’s cognitive and socio-emotional skills.


Education has opened long-lasting paths of fairness and equality for children, mainly focusing on obtaining good academic outcomes. Yet, sustained evidence supports that playfulness, particularly in learning settings, also plays a crucial role in raising socially and emotionally adapted youth. It is crucial to ensure individualized education with a child-rights-based approach – looking to protect other rights like access to play. Current and future dialogues should focus on contextual-based policies that aim to develop learning skills, as well as social and emotional skills that protect societal and children’s best interests. Playful learning will potentially create more fair and equitable environments for children around the globe.