Comparative Perspectives on the Right to Education for Minorities and Disadvantaged Groups

by | Nov 10, 2015

The Oxford Human Rights Hub, alongside Open Society Foundations and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy is hosting an international conference on Comparative Perspectives on the Right to Education for Minorities and Disadvantage Groups on January 14-15, 2016 in New Delhi, India.

Throughout the world, children from minority and disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionately from unequal access to quality education. These may be girls, children belonging to religious, linguistic, racial or ethnic minorities or children belonging to other marginalised sections of society, such as HIV positive children, children of sex workers or Dalit children in India. A large number of such children belong to more than one marginalized group, and have to face intersecting discrimination.  These children often become trapped in cycles of disadvantage, discrimination and exclusion. The right to education is perceived as a multiplier and an empowering right, which can break these cycles of disadvantage and also help facilitate access to other human rights. The rights-based approach to education has sought to ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to education. Minorities and disadvantaged groups lag severely behind their peers in terms of the quality of education which has long-lasting consequences on their opportunities to create a meaningful life. It is now necessary to ensure that minority and disadvantaged groups are able to enjoy high-quality education which is both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable to them, and that they have the ability to enforce this right.

Minorities and disadvantaged groups access education in multiple ways.  Apart from the public education system, these include minority-run schools, schools imparting education in a minority language, schools run under private management or public-private partnerships, and scholarships or quotas that reserve spaces for such children within the mainstream school system. These arrangements raise many diverse concerns of access, retention and overall quality of education.

With the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), prominent on the international and national agendas it is a good time to pause and shine the spotlight on how rights-based approaches can be used to address persistent and emerging obstacles to ensure that all children are able to access and enjoy a high quality education. The conference approaches these issues from a human rights perspective and will draw upon the Indian experience and comparative perspectives from other countries.

The objective of the conference is to bring together diverse participants from India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and other countries to discuss the pressing problem of implementing the right to education with a focus on minorities and disadvantaged groups. Participants will include leading academics in various disciplines, legal practitioners, prominent local, regional and international NGOs, human rights bodies, governmental officials, graduate students and early career researchers who will explore the themes with respect to recent developments, analyse existing weaknesses and suggest improvements in the ways in which human rights frameworks can address the right to education of minorities and disadvantaged groups. The conference aims to build upon the OxHRH-OSF online workshop held in July 2015: The Challenges of Public-Private Partnerships in Realizing the Right to Education.

The four panels will explore:

  • Gender equality in education: moving beyond access to primary education
  • Balancing the right to freedom of religion and culture and the right to education
  • Measuring quality and enforcing a right to quality education
  • The role of public and private actors: challenges facing the right to education

The conference will conclude with a round table discussion on ways to move forward with a focus on developing a litigation strategy for the right to education for minority and disadvantaged groups. A policy-oriented edited collection will be produced and published in print by Policy Press.

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