Turkey’s Roma population and similar social groups such as Abdal, totalling between two million and five million, have long been one of the country’s most marginalised communities. From hate speech and the threat of targeted violence to extreme poverty and exclusion, they suffer discrimination in almost every area of their lives. This situation has been sustained not only by deep-rooted social prejudice, but also by the indifference and even complicity of authorities to address their second-class status in Turkey. Indeed, until relatively recently there was little official acknowledgement of the profound social and economic inequalities affecting them, let alone a concerted effort to improve their conditions.

The limited availability of studies or concrete data on targeted attacks, inadequate essential public services and other challenges have contributed to the continued invisibility of Roma and other similar groups in public life. This has been accompanied by a steady attrition of their ability to maintain their distinct culture and identity: for example, there has been a drastic decline in the number of people who can speak the traditional languages of the Roma community such as Romani, Lomavren, Domari and Abdoltili, and those languages and dialects are under threat of disappearing. This report, drawing on extensive fieldwork with Roma communities as well as desk-based research, seeks to raise awareness among policy makers, journalists and the general public by highlighting the particular barriers they continue to face in two key areas – housing and education. While Turkey is a signatory to all of the relevant international conventions guaranteeing all citizens equal access to housing and education – protections affirmed in its national legislation and constitutions – in practice legal shortcomings and implementation failures have meant that for many these rights remain out of reach.  

Poverty and discrimination from some landlords has meant that the barriers to securing adequate housing are especially high for Roma, resulting in high rates of homelessness or their concentration in settlements with limited public services and insecure tenure. This has led to the persistence of so-called ‘Roma neighbourhoods’ that are largely segregated from surrounding areas and mainstream society. Besides being characterised by limited access to water, sanitation and other needs, these communities are especially vulnerable to forcible displacement to accommodate urban ‘regeneration’ and other projects: as a result, Roma may be forced to migrate repeatedly. These issues are especially acute for certain groups, such as women and refugees, who may be subject to multiple forms of discrimination. Their discrimination is further entrenched by their continued exclusion from education. Despite the right to education being guaranteed for all, in practice a range of social and economic hurdles, from physical isolation and financial constraints to the absence of accessible and culturally appropriate schooling, have left many Roma children isolated – a situation that perpetuates low attendance, poor attainment and the emergence in some areas of almost exclusively Roma schools that reinforce their segregation.

These issues are exacerbated by other forms of discrimination, such as harassment from staff and pupils, and curricula that ignore Roma in their materials. As a result, instead of effectively addressing the drivers of exclusion, Turkey’s education system is perpetuating inequalities by failing to provide Roma with accessible, affordable education.  Importantly, there has been some progress in recent years, with the government coming up with a number of policies that officially recognise the challenges these communities experience. Despite the limitations and ambiguities of those policies, they have been embraced by the NGOs established by Roma and similar social groups. However, only time will tell if the current strategies will produce positive results. This report seeks to highlight the current rights gaps and support the development of more inclusive social policies.

The second edition of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) presents the latest evidence on global progress towards the education targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With hundreds of millions of people still not going to school, and many not achieving minimum skills at school, it is clear education systems are off track to achieve global goals. The marginalised currently bear the most consequences but also stand to benefit the most if policy-makers pay sufficient attention to their needs. Faced with these challenges, along with tight budgets and increased emphasis on results-oriented value for money, countries are searching for solutions. Increased accountability often tops the list.

The 2017/8 GEM Report shows the entire array of approaches to accountability in education. It ranges from countries unused to the concept, where violations of the right to education go unchallenged, to countries where accountability has become an end in itself instead of a means to inclusive, equitable and high-quality education and lifelong learning for all.

The report emphasises that education is a shared responsibility. While governments have primary responsibility, all actors – schools, teachers, parents, students, international organizations, private sector providers, civil society and the media – have a role in improving education systems. The report emphasises the importance of transparency and availability of information but urges caution in how data are used. It makes the case for avoiding accountability systems with a disproportionate focus on narrowly defined results and punitive sanctions. In an era of multiple accountability tools, the report provides clear evidence on those that are working and those that are not.

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur reviews the role of equity and inclusion in strengthening the right to education, in particular in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Special Rapporteur concludes by calling for states to take significant, positive actions to tackle discrimination, inequity and exclusion in education to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are met.

The objectives of this study are to:

  • •understand why boys have been underperforming in education over the past few years
  • analyse factors (including economic, societal, and cultural) that are causing the trend of poor performance and low survival rates at higher levels of education
  • •describe current policies and interventions in place to address the issue

Whilst the importance of equality and inclusion in tackling out-of-school children is now widely recognised, the extent to which discrimination, in all its forms, contributes to the denial of primary education, and the potential for the rights to equality and non-discrimination to offer solutions, are currently underexplored. This report seeks to fill this gap by (1) identifying the ways in which inequality and discrimination underpin children’s lack of access to and completion of primary education, through illuminating the discriminatory nature of the barriers and challenges children face in this context; and (2) exploring ways in which equality law may be used to tackle this problem, looking in particular at equality law approaches to advocacy and strategic litigation.

This comprehensive report presents the results of the Ninth Consultation of UNESCO’s Member States on the implementation of UNESCO’s Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education. Launched in 2016, this consultation involved 67 UNESCO Member States. The information contained in the national reports generally provides an extremely valuable resource for research and analysis, experience-and knowledge-sharing, and ultimately advocacy.

An interesting finding of the report is that countries seized on this periodic reporting exercise as a valuable opportunity to outline the challenges they face and to take stock of progress and reflect on how to overcome difficulties. The report highlights that the challenges are often crosscutting and intersectoral, making them more difficult to address.

In particular, the report points out serious challenges with regard to equity and inclusion. Socio-economic factors, poverty, ethnicity, location and gender account for significant patterns of discrimination and exclusion in education. Persistent harmful practices and attitudes stand in the way of many children and adults and deprive them of meaningful educational opportunities.

Difficulties relating to the quality of education were equally widely shared by countries, along with budgetary constraints and sometimes lack of governance, coordination and monitoring capacities.

The report also exemplifies the various measures adopted at the national level to ensure that education is provided to all in a discrimination-free environment. The report notably shares the positive measures reported by countries to guarantee inclusion in education, notably for girls and women, refugees, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, which is critical to advance SDG4.

Key resource

The aim of the present general comment is to clarify the obligations of States parties regarding non-discrimination and equality as enshrined in article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Section K of the general comment refers to the right to education:

  1. The failure of some States parties to provide students with disabilities, including students with visible and invisible disabilities and those who experience multiple discrimination, with equal access to mainstream school with inclusive and quality education is discriminatory, contrary to the objectives of the Convention, and in direct contravention of Articles 5 and 24. Article 5 (1) interacts with Article 24 of the Convention and requires States parties to remove all types of discriminatory barriers, including legal and social barriers, to inclusive education.
  2. Segregated models of education, which exclude students with disabilities from mainstream and inclusive education on the basis of disability, contravene articles 5 (2) and 24 (1) (a) of the Convention. Article 5 (3) requires States parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided. That right is strengthened for persons with disabilities in article 24 (2) (b), which requires States parties to ensure an inclusive education for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. That goal can be achieved by providing reasonable accommodation of an individual’s requirement, in accordance with article 24 (2) (c), and developing new and inclusive settings according to universal design. Standardized assessment systems, including entry examinations, that directly or indirectly exclude students with disabilities are discriminatory and in contravention of articles 5 and 24. States parties’ obligations extend beyond the school. States parties must ensure accessible school transportation is provided to all students with disabilities where transportation options are limited due to social or economic barriers.
  3. To ensure equality and non-discrimination for deaf children in educational settings, they must be provided with sign language learning environments with deaf peers and deaf adult role models. The lack of proficiency in sign language skills of teachers of deaf children and inaccessible school environments exclude deaf children and are thus considered discriminatory. The Committee calls upon States parties to be guided by its general comment No. 4 (2016) on the right to inclusive education when carrying out measures to fulfil their obligations under articles 5 and 24.

The General Comment is available here.

The new Handbook on Measuring Equity in Education, produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the FHI 360 Education Policy Data Centre, Oxford Policy Management and the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, provides practical guidance on the calculation and interpretation of indicators designed to target the most disadvantaged groups. It is intended for anyone involved in the measurement and monitoring of equity in education, especially those concerned with national policymaking. It addresses the current knowledge gaps and provides a conceptual framework to measure equity in learning, drawing on examples of equity measurement across 75 national education systems.

“Her Turn”, a new report from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reveals that refugee girls at secondary level are only half as likely to enrol in school as their male peers, even though girls make up half of the school-age refugee population. 

Access to education is a fundamental human right. Yet, for millions of women and girls among the world’s growing refugee population, education remains an aspiration, not a reality.

For all refugee children around the world, the school gates are a great deal harder to prise open than they are for their non-refugee peers. For refugee girls, it is even tougher to find – and keep – a place in the classroom. As they get older, refugee girls face more marginalization and the gender gap in secondary schools grows wider.

The report is available here http://www.unhcr.org/herturn/

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