A sentence of the Spanish Constitutional court recognizes that public funding of compulsory education in non-governmental schools with legitimate pedagogical options, is a constitutional duty to guarantee the freedom of approach of the right to education :

On April 10th of last year, the Spanish Constitutional Court of Spain in its judgment 31/2018 resolved a conflict on the funding of single sex schools that shed some light on the obligations of the state regarding public funding for non-governmental schools. About single sex schools the sentence mention that “the system of single-sex education is a pedagogical option which cannot be deemed as discriminatory. Therefore, it can be a part of the right of any private or non-governmental school to establish its own character”. About the particular character of a school the sentence continues saying that this ethos “can be considered to a great extent (…) the point of convergence that makes possible the exercise of the right of creation of educational institutions and the right of parents to choose the kind of education that they wish for their children, putting in connection educational supply and demand”.

Concerning the funding for these schools it says that the “public authorities shall give aid to teaching establishments which meet the requirements to be laid down by the law”. Moreover, recalling that basic education is compulsory and free by the Constitution the Court concludes that “it is incumbent upon the public authorities to promote conditions which ensure that the freedom and equality of individuals and of the groups to which they belong may be real and effective, to remove the obstacles which prevent or hinder their full enjoyment, and to facilitate the participation of all citizens in political, economic, cultural and social life”. The sentence continues “This constitutionally guaranteed free education cannot refer exclusively to the governmental or public school, denying it all private or non-governmental schools, since this would imply the compulsory nature of such a governmental education, at least at the basic level, preventing the real possibility to choose the basic education in any private centre. This would cut from the root not only the right of parents to choose a teaching centre, but also the right to create teaching centres enshrined in Article 27.6 of the Spanish Constitution (The right of individuals and legal entities to set up educational centres is recognised, provided they respect Constitutional principles). In this sense, public funding of private schools is at the service of the provision content enshrined in art. 27.4 of the Spanish Constitution (Elementary education is compulsory and free).“

From a Human Rights perspective we can celebrate this sentence for many reasons. First, because it considers the article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from a holistic perspective without dividing the freedom approach and the provision approach of the right to education. Second, and as a consequence of the first reason, because it considers the freedom approach of the right to education as something that goes beyond a mere liberty. Third, because its multiple references to international instruments such as the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the General Comment n°13 on the Right to Education.

Here you have the link to the entire sentence: https://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2018-6823

Ignasi Grau

 

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