This case concerns whether the right to basic education includes a right to be provided with transport to and from school at state expense for those scholars who live a distance from their schools and who cannot afford the cost of that transport. 

This is a brief on MDG 2 (Achieve Universal Primary Education), with a focus on target 2.A (Ensure that, by 2015, all children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling). It highlights that quality education is a right, must be free and compulsory at least at the primary level, and must be a major part of the national budgets.

In this decision, the eighth chamber of review of the Constitutional Court of Colombia found that the State had violated the fundamental rights to education and equality of four children who lived outside the urban centre by not providing transportation to the closest secondary education institution.

This document lists the international instruments that refer to free and compulsory education with their relevant provisions.

 

Este documento enumera los instrumentos internacionales que se refieren a la educación gratuita y obligatoria con sus disposiciones pertinentes.

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In this case, petitioners supported by the Colombian Coalition for the Right to Education filed a claim with the Constitutional Court of Colombia challenging a provision in the General Education Law (Law No. 115 of 1994), which allowed the government to impose fees for primary education. The Constitutional Court found that the provision of law that allowed the charging of fees for primary education was unenforceable and in violation of the Colombian Constitution and international human rights treaties. This decision reaffirmed that Colombian laws must be interpreted in light of the provisions of international human rights treaties, which have a superior standing. The decision also confirmed the fundamental nature of the right to free primary education.

Key resource

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.