Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The question of separate systems of education 5/9

 20. Public schools and compulsory schooling imply that young people of different origins attend the same schools. As a Swiss expert rightly indicates, “If children developed separately at school, they would continue to do so later on in society and this would intensify social, cultural and economic inequalities. Ghettos would spring up and violence would threaten social peace”. 

21. In strictly legal terms, the lawfulness of separate schools is still open to discussion (these are schools or classes set up in public education; they must therefore be distinguished from private schools). They may be said to create a situation of segregation and to be in breach of the principles of equality of treatment and equality of opportunity proclaimed by many international instruments. As the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination rightly pointed out in its 1983 annual report, establishing two systems of education may be understandable, but “might in time lead to the practice of discrimination among different strata of the population” (A/38/18, para. 197). Equality does not necessarily mean that treatment must be identical in all circumstances. According to established international case law and universally accepted doctrine, differentiation is not discrimination if the purpose is to achieve a legitimate goal and if there is a proportional relationship between the means used and the goal to be achieved. Only differentiation which is not justified de facto is inadmissible, provided that the criteria used are not reasonable and objective. In some countries, ethnic groups themselves assert their right to be treated as a separate and independent sector of the nation State’s education system and claim that they are entitled to a distinct indigenous education.
22. In the above-mentioned General Comment No. 13, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considers, not without some hesitation, that “in some circumstances, separate educational systems or institutions for groups … shall be deemed not to constitute a breach of the Covenant”; it merely endorses article 2 of the 1960 UNESCO Convention (E/C.12/199+9/10, para. 33), which is the one that provides the most detailed information on the question.

23. The UNESCO Convention deals with the question of “separate educational systems  orinstitutions” in the provision on situations deemed not to constitute discrimination within the meaning of article 1. According to the Convention, such an educational system must basically be exceptional in nature and integration thus depends on the establishment of a single public educational system in which pupils belonging to various minorities and ethnic and religious groups learn to frequent one another and live together peacefully from a very young age.

24. The Convention lays down very strict conditions for the establishment or maintenance of separate educational institutions, whether “for pupils of the two sexes” (art. 2 (a)) or “for religious or linguistic reasons” (art. 2 (b)), it being understood that, in some countries, the two may overlap. In the first case, four conditions, which are at least equivalent to those in force in the system of non-separate institutions, are laid down. They relate to access, the qualifications of teaching staff, the quality of school premises and equipment and courses of study in these institutions. It is obvious, however, that providing service of equivalent quality cannot be guaranteed if there are sharp disparities in State spending policies. Like schools for minorities (art. 5, para. 1 (c) (iii)), separate institutions established for religious or linguistic reasons must fulfil the condition of optional attendance or participation and conformity with such standards as may be laid down or approved by the State, in particular for education of the same level$FILE/G0113802.pdf

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