education-2The right to education is described by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as ‘both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights.’ It is a basic right guaranteed by a variety of international instruments, as set out further below. The right to education should be accorded without distinction and should be accessible for all.

However, despite international obligations to make education readily accessible, minority groups are not always afforded this right. Although they may attend school, classes may be in a language they are unfamiliar with. Curriculums may also exclude information about their history, tradition and language, thus failing to protect their identity. Children facing such problems may be unable to participate fully due to linguistic problems and may face potential expulsion either for lack of participation or failure to attend classes in which they feel unable to contribute. In addition, there may be physical restrictions to education due to a lack of accessibility. Children from minority groups may have to travel large distances to attend school and this can be both time consuming and expensive, and/or the costs of school uniforms and textbooks can be prohibitive. Failure to address these problems also prevents access to education.  The inclusion of minority groups in the decision-making process would allow for education authorities to better understand the needs of these groups and to adjust the curriculum appropriately.

Instruments protecting the right to education

International instruments:

Regional instruments:

Relevant jurisprudence

International cases:

Regional cases:

Domestic cases:

Photo: India’s Sidi community. Credit: Mohan

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