Tuesday, December 1, 2015


80. Taking account of the conceptual considerations presented in the first chapter of this
study, we shall now discuss the practical and factual aspects of racial discrimination and
religious intolerance in education, so as to be in a better position to make recommendations on
how to combat them. It is possible to draw up a typology on the basis of a range of examples
of discriminatory practices throughout the world. This chapter does not seek to be exhaustive
and is concerned less with the number of examples cited than with the category to which each of
them can be assigned in the context of the overall purpose of the study. In this regard, it should
be noted that factual aspects must cast light on people’s attitudes to others, as well as the
representation of their own identity, bearing in mind that, even where no minorities are present in
a country, these may still be intolerant and discriminatory. Moreover, the choice of classification
does not always have legal implications with respect to the violations committed; the intention is
purely pedagogical. Thus, subclassifications may overlap within one and the same typology, and
sometimes in any one example; likewise, other typologies can be used, and these may also overlap. We have opted for an approach that seems to us both the most directly relevant to the
subject of this study, namely, one based on the concepts of discrimination and intolerance in
education, and the most functional in terms of violations or ignorance of legal obligations. We
shall start by looking at discrimination resulting from positive and often deliberate materially
identifiable acts of States; such discrimination would arise from regulations, policies,
instructions, measures and other material conditions affecting the organization or content of
education put in place by States (sect. A). We shall then turn to discrimination or segregation
resulting from a negative attitude on the part of States, where the discrimination arises from a
State’s omission or failure to take action (sect. B).

A. Discrimination by action
81. An examination of certain aspects of practice in this regard reveals at least three
scenarios for attitudes that may be classified as discrimination by action: impermeability,
domination and marginalization.

1. Impermeability
82. Impermeability here means an intended or unintended situation in which it is impossible
for all or even part of an education system to take account, at the conceptual and organizational
levels, of the specific expectations of certain ethnic and/or religious minority groups. Thus, in
countries with many indigenous populations, the official education systems might be either
unable or unwilling to incorporate the values and components of those populations’ cultural
identity.91 In such cases, discrimination arises when the education system established or
supervised by the State does not meet to those groups’ expectations with regard to equal rights
and identity.
83. Several examples may be cited in this connection. Discrimination arises, for instance,
when the education system organizes teaching whose form and content conflicts with the
religious beliefs of pupils belonging to minority ethnic groups.92 Again with regard to the
content of the teaching provided, some examples concern families which consider that their
children should not study certain subjects, arguing that, although they have no specifically
religious content, they may conflict with their beliefs and convictions. Examples are sex
education and instruction in sports or music, which some parents challenge on the grounds that
these subjects are incompatible with specific religious beliefs.93 However, education should also
contribute to shaping the pupils’ sensibility and taste, and to protecting them against societal ills
such as teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A refusal to take account of that
dimension in the teaching dispensed in private schools or in textbooks, for religious or moral
reasons, conflicts not only with human rights and tolerance, but also with the “best interests of
the child”.
84. Examples relating to the organization of teaching are also worthy of note. First, there is
the thorny question of weekly restdays, which poses a particularly acute problem in
multi-denominational classes. Do pupils not belonging to the majority religious group have the
right to a holiday on the day celebrated as a holiday by their religion? Admittedly, the
organization of differentiated restdays poses serious problems, particularly when there is a great
religious diversity in one and the same school.95 The same problem could arise with the observation of certain religious rites or dress codes by some pupils in multi-denominational
classes. Nonetheless, difficult as these questions may be, an answer must be found that is
compatible with respect for human rights and takes account of the particularities of pupils from
minority groups. As we have noted, the teacher’s role and “tact” are crucial in this regard.
2. Domination and assimilation
85. The policy of assimilating the children of minorities, thereby making them lose their
identity, is a most harmful form of discrimination because it sows the seeds for the continuation
of discriminatory attitudes beyond the generations practising them at any given time. Referring
to article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution, Mr. Federico Mayor emphasized that distinctions,
notably those based on language or religion, “undermine the right to education and the cultural
rights of numerous minorities; they sometimes raise unjust and intolerable barriers among
citizens of the same State”.96 Domination can take a variety of forms. It may be physical and
direct, or else grounded in psychological and moral conditioning. For example, it may take the
form of an affirmation of the complete or at least partial superiority of the culture, language or
religion of the group exercising such domination. This generally involves a glorification of the
dominant culture, including the dominant language, and a devaluation of the culture, traditions,
standards and languages of minorities. Such domination is especially perceptible in the field of
education, this being the most suitable means of shaping the mindset of those dominating
(children of the majority) and those dominated (children from minority groups).
86. Many examples can be cited. School curricula and textbooks are replete with examples
of attitudes deriving from such psychological conditioning, affirming through both
approximations and lies that the history, culture and language of the dominant group have always
been and still are superior. Schoolbooks thus teach children, including those of the various
religious minorities, that some of them are alien elements, whereas this is not, in fact, the case:
representatives of these religious minorities are for the most part descendants of indigenous
people who converted to the religions concerned.97
87. Domination sometimes goes beyond mere psychological conditioning and is actually
accompanied by physical discrimination. An obvious case is that affecting minority groups
under military domination, including raids made by the occupying forces in schools attended by
the children of minorities.98 Physical domination may also involve a ban on the use of the
language of the minority group, even outside the classroom setting. Some children are thus
reportedly beaten for using their own language at school and schoolmasters face arrest if they
recognize the existence of the language and culture of the group in question.99 This, too, is an
obvious case of such domination or discrimination where power (historical, demographic,
political, military, etc.) is transposed to the educational field to express directly or indirectly the
position of dominance of a particular group, culture, religion or language. This transposition is
all the more serious because it can shape the minds of young people as a result, and may lead to
discriminatory attitudes being reproduced by successive generations.
88. Lastly, excessive attention to identity characteristics - which could be described as
identity-related “narcissism” - as affirmed by the law or in school textbooks, or else by the
dominant ideology can, even when there are no minorities in a country, lead to xenophobia, a
negative representation of aliens and discrimination.

3. Marginalization or non-consideration
89. Marginalization is the direct consequence of the first two forms of discrimination, as it
reflects the will of the dominant group to keep children, especially the children of minorities,
from enjoying the benefits of education. An extreme case would be the denial of access to
education for such children, particularly at the primary and secondary level. Such a denial,
which is without doubt the most serious form of discrimination against the children of minorities
and migrant workers, has been formally identified by the United Nations human rights treaty
bodies as the denial of a fundamental right.100 This sometimes takes the form of an intake
capacity being described as insufficient in the schools attended by such communities. Of course,
discrimination exists only when the education authorities are actually able, given the
“availability” of financial, human and material resources, to increase school intake capacity,
including for the benefit of the groups of pupils in question.
90. Another attitude consists in deliberately relegating to a subordinate status anything
relating to the cultural features of minority groups. This may take the form of an ostensibly
pedagogical approach that in fact promotes profoundly racist stereotypes. An example is the use,
in one textbook, of a heavily discriminatory image including the phrase “The Gypsy has stolen
the goose”.101 Because of the general context this tendentious phrase is likely to be taken as the
truth or the norm, particularly in view of the eminently pedagogical value of the medium used.
91. A portrayal prejudicial to girls in society or advocating polygamy in textbooks is also apt
to perpetuate discrimination between the sexes rather than fostering a spirit of tolerance among
young pupils.102 Likewise, imposing a strict code of conduct confining women to their homes
and banning girls from going to school is a discriminatory and intolerant attitude contrary to the
applicable principles of international law.103 This can also be said of stereotypes encouraging a
very negative portrayal of women belonging to a different ethnic and/or religious minority
group. According to one author, this form of discrimination, which may be described as
aggravated (gender-based, and racial and/or religious) discrimination, became a noticeable
feature of the 1990s.104
92. Non-consideration may take the form of attitudes affecting the conditions of education of
the pupil who, for ethnic reasons, may be forced to go to a school for the mentally disabled or
systematically placed in the back row of the classroom. Thus, for example, “disproportionate
numbers of Roma children are relegated to second-class educational facilities - ‘special schools’
- designed for pupils said to be suffering from intellectual or behavioural deficiencies”.105
Others are assigned to separate classes or discriminated against within the same school (separate
graduation ceremonies, different meal times in the cafeteria).106 These are examples of relatively
clear-cut discrimination based on a failure to respect the most elementary basic rights. Where it
affects children, this is likely to have very adverse consequences for the individuals concerned,
their own self image and how other children see them, for their balanced integration into the
society where they live, for social cohesion and, ultimately for the very unity of the State.

B. Discrimination by omission
93. Discrimination may sometimes appear in its passive form, i.e. when it results from an
omission, in one of three ways: non-prevention, a refusal to take affirmative action and a lack or
shortage of adequate resources.
1. Non-prevention
94. Non-prevention here means an attitude on the part of the State which consists in not
taking the necessary measures to prevent situations of discrimination in the school setting. This
is an omission upstream of a racial and/or ethnic situation likely to give rise to discriminatory
95. The same applies to the training of teaching staff entrusted with multicultural or
multi-denominational classes. Such training is all the more necessary since, aside from the fact
that such staff may themselves be the source of discriminatory behaviour, the very composition
of a multicultural class may lead to the propagation of racist stereotypes. The teachers’ role here
is to dispel such myths and stereotypes and help to foster in the children a culture of respect for
others as much as for themselves. Wherever possible, teachers must, as we have already said, be
sensitized to and trained in addressing the problems of multiculturalism and in suitable means for
combating discrimination. This is certainly a key element for balanced education in a
multicultural setting. While any deficiency here cannot in itself be considered as discrimination,
it is bound to maintain, if not develop, discriminatory ideas and conduct. States have a
fundamental role to play here in stemming, through organizational measures, one of the most
frequent causes of discrimination (see chapter III below).
2. Refusal to take affirmative action
96. The second aspect of discrimination by omission results sometimes from ill will and
sometimes from selective attitudes, and is reflected in the refusal to take special measures for the
benefit of a group. This is what happens, for example, when teaching programmes are not
adapted to the needs of minorities. There is discrimination when the omission gives rise to
exclusion, a restriction or a preference based on race and likely to deny the child of a minority
group the enjoyment of a fundamental right. Such acts of omission may, depending on the
circumstances, mean that there are no bilingual classes or remedial classes in the official
language when children have difficulties because of that language, or else that there is a lack of
diversity in school curricula or teacher training.
97. In some cases, the minorities not only call for their specific characteristics to be taken
into account but also ask to participate in the formulation and implementation of educational
policies. Thus, denouncing a political party’s discriminatory policy in the field of education,
some indigenous representatives in one country drew a distinction “between education for
Aborigines and Aboriginal education, with a view to highlighting the role that Aborigines should
have in both designing and implementing educational policies”.107
98. On the question of language teaching more specifically, the examples which may be cited
are both very numerous and very diverse owing to the complexity of the socio-political problems
underlying this issue.108 In this connection, while it is perfectly legitimate for a State to consider
making an integrationist effort with the (or any one) official language, the concern to ensure
respect for the self-esteem of all the individuals comprising that State must also be taken into
account. Various forms of social behaviour of children and, later, of adults are contingent
thereon. What is likely to be the attitude of a child who does not believe in himself or is taught
to believe in the superiority of the language of the group to which he belongs (even if it is the
majority)? Education is thus the crucible for a civic attitude in society as a whole, whatever its
ethnic or religious make-up.

3. Lack or shortage of adequate resources
99. The failure to supply adequate resources to provide an education meeting the various
aspirations for ensuring non-discrimination is a highly complex issue, objectively speaking,
in view of the financial difficulties experienced by educational systems throughout the
world, and particularly in the developing countries. In most of the countries surveyed by
Francesco Capotorti, secondary education is not provided in minority languages. The reasons
often given include a lack of funds, the unavailability of competent teaching staff and the desire
not to fragment the educational system or, indeed, to impair national unity.

100. In this connection, consideration must be given only to cases where such an attitude is
based on discriminatory grounds and the shortage of funds affects the various ethnic and/or
religious groups unequally. Thus, for example, in some European countries, budget cut backs
and austerity policies affect educational programmes intended for the children of minorities or
emigrants (in particular, remedial classes). In this regard, the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination recently had occasion to point out that “the situation of Roma is a subject
of particular concern since no improvements have been noted in the … low educational level
traditionally predominant among members of this minority” and recommended that “measures
of affirmative action should be adopted in favour of the Roma population, especially in the areas
of education and vocational training …”. In any event, it is only when such measures
(or rather such non-measures) have an excessive impact and consequences for the enjoyment of
the fundamental rights of a particular group that they may be described as prohibited

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