In this decision, the Court found that the right to education of a disabled child had been violated when the educational institution did not award an official certificate of completion for his secondary education, even after the student had met all the requirements of his personalised education project (proyecto pedagógico individual or PPI) because his PPI did not comply with the minimum requirements under local regulations. The Court concluded that people with disabilities have the right to an inclusive education on an equal basis with others, and this includes the right to have their capabilities and accomplishments certified under equal conditions. ‘Equal conditions’ does not necessarily mean identical requirements but rather, making reasonable adjustments to ensure that individuals are treated as equals. Namely, the Court explained that the plaintiff, having met the specific requirements of his PPI and having attended and passed 5 years of courses at the institution, had the same right as his classmates that had met the requirements imposed on them to receive a certificate.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (the ‘BC HRT’) (reversing the decisions of both the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal) that the Board of Education of School District No. 44 (North Vancouver) (the ‘School District’), by closing a facility that provided intensive services and individualised assistance to students with severe learning disabilities, had denied a child with severe dyslexia access to a service customarily available to the public, being education, contrary to the British Columbia Human Rights Code (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210, s. 8). Although the School District was subject to severe funding constraints, it was found to have not acted with a bona fide and reasonable justification, which could have provided a defence to the Human Rights Code violation.
Education is a fundamental human right of every woman, man and child. In states’ efforts to meet their commitments to making the right to education a reality for all, most have made impressive progress in recent decades. With new laws and policies that remove fees in basic education, significant progress has been made in advancing free education. This has led to tens of millions of children enrolling for the first time and the number of out of school children and adolescents falling by almost half since 2000. Important steps have also been taken with regard to gender parity and states have made efforts to raise the quality of education through improved teacher policies and a growing emphasis on learning outcomes.
Despite these efforts, breaches of the right to education persist worldwide, illustrated perhaps most starkly by the fact that 262 million primary and secondary-aged children and youth are still out of school. Girls, persons with disabilities, those from disadvantaged backgrounds or rural areas, indigenous persons, migrants and national minorities are among those who face the worst discrimination, affecting both their right to go to school and their rights within schools.
To respond to the challenges, the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) with UNESCO have developed this handbook to guide action on ensuring full compliance with the right to education. Its objective is not to present the right to education as an abstract, conceptual, or purely legal concept, but rather to be action-oriented. The handbook will also be an important reference for those working towards the achievement of SDG4, by offering guidance on how to leverage legal commitment to the right to education as a strategic way to achieve this goal.