On 20 November 2017 – Universal Children’s Day – the Equal Rights Trust launched Learning InEquality: Using Equality Law to Tackle Barriers to Primary Education for Out-Of-School Children. The global report fills an important gap in existing research, by analysing how both current and past patterns of discrimination lead to children of primary school age being out of school. More importantly, it also illustrates how equality law can and should be used to address the problem of out-of-school children.
There has long been a global commitment – in the context of both international human rights law and development goals – to “education for all”, and to universal primary education in particular. Yet in 2017, an estimated 61 million children of primary school age are out of school. This group is made up disproportionately of children from disadvantaged groups – girls, children with disabilities, ethnic and racial minority children, refugee children and the socio-economically disadvantaged.
Learning InEquality analyses data from across the world to explore and map the various ways in which direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and failure to make reasonable accommodation restrict access to primary education for certain children, and identifies government failures to rectify the issue through positive action measures. From the direct and indirect costs of schooling to formal enrolment requirements, and from geographical distance to the curriculum itself, the report finds multiple discriminatory barriers to primary education to be addressed.
The report provides more than a diagnosis. It also proposes a solution, illustrating how the adoption of an “equality law approach” to education is both necessary to achieve the goal of education for all, and how such an approach can be strategically beneficial for those working to ensure children can access school.
To mark the launch of the report, the Trust convened an expert panel discussion, with speakers including Virgínia Brás Gomes (Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), Desmond Bermingham (Education and International Development expert), Sarah Hannett (barrister at Matrix Chambers) and Camilla Alonzo (Legal and Programmes Officer at the Equal Rights Trust and drafter of the report).