‘Current Issues in Education and Human Rights’ – Discrimination in Education and its subsequent effects on Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that education is a fundamental human right for everyone. This right was further detailed in the Convention against Discrimination in Education in 1960. Furthermore, it is good to note that the right to education is considered to be ‘indispensable’ for the exercise of other human rights (UNESCO, 2020). As per the convention of 1960, the term `discrimination’ includes any distinction, exclusion, limitation, or preference which, being based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, economic condition, or birth, has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing equality of treatment in education(UNESCO, 1960). Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: ‘All Human Beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’ (UN, 1948). Article 2 further states that the rights are set forth without any distinction. In this essay, we briefly discuss the types of discrimination in our education system.

Discrimination in Education poses several long-term challenges. The UNESCO-UNEVOC discussion paper from 2007 discusses the psychological, social, and economic effects of discrimination in education in a war-affected society. On a regular day too,
discrimination in education is more widespread than one might acknowledge. This is true for the most resource-rich countries around the world. Although all people are entitled to nine years of compulsory education in China, there are reports showing that minorities including people with disabilities are discriminated against in basic education (Human Rights Watch, 2013). In China, discrimination is also rampant based on the place of origin. The students subject to regional discrimination are those who managed to have a better record in the relevant exams but are denied studying at top universities due to their place of origin. In the middle east, the cultural and religious embodiments of Androcentrism can be seen throughout the region and the policies they frame. For instance, Iran still considers ‘‘household and childcare as women’s primary responsibility,” and this is reflected through the difference in school criteria between the two sexes. In addition, Bahá’í students have been systematically expelled from Iranian universities on grounds of religion. (The Guardian, 2013)

Even advanced democracies like the USA have always had institutional discrimination, with very high discrimination rates. Many districts have a very disproportionate number of minority students specific schools. In the book ‘The Shame of the Nation: The restoration of Apartheid schooling in America’, Jonathan Kozol gives detailed information about the discrimination in schooling in America, and the biases created by receiving education in a wealthy neighborhood versus a marginalized neighborhood (Kozol, 2005). Several empirical studies have also been conducted around the world to study the systemic discrimination arising due to prevalent biases (Terrier et al. 2014) (Thomas P. et al. 2018) (Victor L. etal. 2019)

Over the last year, we have witnessed several uprisings to end discriminatory behaviors in our society. Although our policies and institutions are designed to reduce discrimination of any kind in the education that we receive, the reality around our world seems to tell a different tale. This generally leads to a severe and long-term effect on the individual discriminated against. Effects of discrimination in education are found in livelihood and civic participation in the long run (UNESCO-UNEVOC, 2007). Earlier, we discussed how the right to education is indispensable to other human rights. Hence, to ensure a just and equitable lifestyle for everyone around the world, a fair and non-discriminatory education system is a must.

Human Rights Watch, “As Long as They Let Us Stay in Class” Barriers to Education for Persons with Disabilities in China. New York: 2013.
Lavy, Victor; Megalokonomou, Rigissa (2019-06-27). “Persistency in Teachers’ Grading Bias and Effects on Longer-Term Outcomes: University Admissions Exams and Choice of Field of Study”
Mike Cole, “Education, Equality and Human Rights”, 2018
Protivínský, Tomáš; Münich, Daniel (2018-12-01). “Gender Bias in teachers’ grading: What is in the grade”. Studies in Educational Evaluation.
UNESCO-UNEVOC, “Education For Livelihoods and Civic Participation in Post-Conflict Countries”, 2007.
UNESCO, “What you need to know about the right to education”, 2020. Retrieved from:
UNESCO, “Convention against discrimination in Education”, 1960. Retrieved from:
United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, 1948. Retrieved from: https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/udhr.pdf
Terrier, Camille. Boys Lag Behind: How Teachers’ Gender Biases Affect Student Achievement. Rochester, 2014
The guardian “Bahá’í student expelled from Iranian university ‘on grounds of religion'”. February 2013.

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