On the first day of school, children often worry whether they'll make new friends or like their teachers. But in the Dominican Republic, some confront a far graver concern: Will I be turned away because I don't have a birth certificate?

The report, Left Behind: How Statelessness in the Dominican Republic Limits Children's Access to Education, shows that many children born in the Dominican Republic but descended from foreigners, particularly Haitians, are denied an education. For generations, such children were recognized as citizens, but within the last decade, the Dominican government has refused to issue many of them birth certificates, identity cards and other essential documentation, rendering them stateless. The report concludes that the Dominican Republic is failing to comply with its domestic and international human rights obligations, including the human right to education.

The report is the product of months of research, including interviews with dozens of affected children and families, as well as educators, advocates and government officials. Several of the Dominicans of Haitian descent interviewed were prevented from attending primary school, secondary school or university because they could not obtain identity documents. Of those allowed to attend school despite not having birth certificates, many were denied the ability to take national exams required to graduate.

All of this occurs in spite of laws, policies, constitutional provisions and international human rights commitments that are meant to guarantee children's right to education. The report found that administrative barriers, discrimination and confusion about the law has meant that in practice not all children in the Dominican Republic are allowed to go to school, even if they consider themselves Dominicans.

These Guidelines are intended to assist Member States in the preparation of the Reports on the implementation of the 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education (“the Convention”) as well as the 1960 Recommendation against Discrimination in Education (“the Recommendation”). The Convention and the Recommendation, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1960, correspond to UNESCO’s constitutional mandate to “advance the ideal of equality of educational opportunities without regard to race, sex or any distinctions, economic or social”.

This publication is a compilation of practical examples of measures taken by Member States in implementing the provisions of the Convention and the Recommendation against Discrimination in Education. It has seven chapters reflecting the main issues and components including in the Convention and Recommendation. It begins by presenting the legal framework adopted by States. This is followed by a presentation of measures taken for eliminating discrimination in and through education; promoting equality of opportunity and treatment in this field, across all levels of education and through inclusive education; supporting affirmative action; enhancing quality education; religious and moral education; and the rights of minorities and language of instruction.

The publication is a compilation of practical examples of measures taken by Member States in implementing the provisions of the UNESCO Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education - considered a cornerstone of Education 2030. 

The examples are taken from national reports submitted to UNESCO for the Eighth Consultation of Member States on the implementation of these two international instruments.

The compendium seeks to provide an overview of promising measures taken to ensure equality of educational opportunities and non-discrimination – determining factors for the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 4, while also serving as a tool for information sharing and advocacy in connection with the right to 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.