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Education and Article 13 of the ICESCR

Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss

Published: 2012-02-28

Synopsis and Key Points:

Nations that signed the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights ICESCR recognized that everyone has the right to education.

Main Digest

Nations that signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognized that everyone has the right to education.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - (ICESCR) - A multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and in force from 3 January 1976. It commits its parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights to individuals, including labor rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living. As of July 2011, the Covenant had 160 parties. A further six countries had signed, but not yet ratified the Covenant.

They agreed that education is something that will be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity and that education will strengthen the respect for human rights and our fundamental freedoms. The nations that signed this covenant have agreed that education is something that will enable every person to participate effectively in a free society, promoting understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial, ethnic, or religious groups, as well as furthering the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

The nations that signed the ICESCR did not do so lightly, or as an afterthought.

They agreed that primary education is to be compulsory and available for free to everyone, which means people with disabilities too. Secondary education comes in many different forms, and nations agreed that this includes technical and vocational forms, agreeing that these forms of education will be made generally available and accessible to everyone by every appropriate means - particularly through the progressive introduction of free education.

At this time in America, the costs associated with education continue to skyrocket. Obtaining a technical or vocational education in this nation involves deep financial pockets. This writer is increasingly concerned by presentations from some politicians in America suggesting the destruction of the Department of Education, as well as the continued perception of education as a commodity, when the ICESCR very clearly states the direction of education should be towards free and readily available technical and vocational secondary education. What faith are the people of a nation to have in their government when that government cannot uphold its own word

The ICESCR also says that higher education shall be made equally accessible to everyone on the basis of capacity, through every appropriate means; particularly through the progressive introduction of free education.

What this means is that colleges and universities in nations that have signed this Covenant should have been and need to be continuing to make progress towards making education through colleges and universities free of charge. In America, the exact opposite is occurring, with prices related to tuition, fees, and boarding becoming so very high they prohibit all but extremely privileged persons from gaining higher education.

Accessibility remains an issue for People with Disabilities as America's largest minority population where education is concerned. While colleges and universities have made efforts to accommodate students with disabilities, access to areas of campuses in America is far from fully resolved. The percentage of students with disabilities in comparison to non-disabled students on the college and university campuses of America is far from proportionate to the population we represent in this nation.

Fundamental education is something to be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for people who have not received or completed the entire period of their primary education, according to the Covenant.

Yet in America, the drop-out rate is horrendous. The achievement levels of students in their primary education are essentially flat, and American students have fallen behind other nations in a number of areas of achievement including science and mathematics. In cities, gang members recruit in schools. Students with disabilities continue to experience prejudicial treatment and bullying, and gay/lesbian/transgender students do as well.

The development of school systems at all levels is something nations that have signed the Covenant have agreed to actively pursue. They have agreed that an adequate fellowship system will be established, as well as continuous improvement of the material conditions of teaching staff. The United States of America has established school systems at many different levels. A Fellowship system does exist in America, although it is not the most inclusive one where People with Disabilities are concerned.

Teachers in America; however, find themselves paying out of their own pockets for basic school supplies, as well as living on incomes unbecoming of their positions in society.

Teachers in America often times find themselves unprepared to instruct students with disabilities for a variety of reasons. Attempting to instruct students, with or without forms of disabilities, in environments that include gang activities, bullying, prejudicial treatment of students and more cannot be considered improvements of the material conditions of teaching staff.

The nations that signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) agreed to respect the liberty of parents and, when applicable, their ability to choose the schools their children attend other than those established by public authorities as long as long as they conform to minimum educational standards. Nations that have signed this Covenant agreed this should be so in order to ensure the religious and moral education of children in conformity of their own convictions.

In America it is not so much a matter of choosing a school other than a public school where children with disabilities are concerned; it is more a matter of getting a public school to provide the reasonable accommodations a student with disabilities needs.

The matter is more one of getting a public school to prevent issues of bullying and prejudicial treatment related to a child who experiences forms of disabilities - whether the perpetrator is a fellow student or a teacher. While a great many of America's teachers are exceptional, the environments in many schools across this nation for students with disabilities is not.

The views presented in this article are ones intended to present, 'sore spots,' in relation to America's educational system. It is very important to note the incredibly valuable works being performed by many teachers who are highly-dedicated to ensuring that students with disabilities receive the education they deserve in this nation. It is important to note the efforts being made to improve the educational systems in America, as well as efforts being made on the parts of the leaders of America. As President Obama has said, "There is more we can do."

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is an important part of the rights People with Disabilities have, yet this writer remains in great anticipation of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its optional protocols in America. The government of the United States has, 'edged-around,' full establishment of our rights, equality, and inclusion as full citizens of America for the entire history of this nation; it is time for America to recognize, respect, and fully-include People with Disabilities in the everyday activities of this nation - to include education.

Learning Disabilities Association of America

"Since 1963, LDA has provided support to people with learning disabilities, their parents, teachers and other professionals. At the national, state and local levels, LDA provides cutting edge information on learning disabilities, practical solutions, and a comprehensive network of resources. These services make the Learning Disabilities Association of America the leading resource for information on learning disabilities."

Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Education Reform

"Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services by state and local governmental entities, whether or not they receive federal funds. This includes public school districts."

Office of Civil Rights (OCR) - Education

"We serve student populations facing discrimination and the advocates and institutions promoting systemic solutions to civil rights problems. An important responsibility is resolving complaints of discrimination."

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

"The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the most important piece of civil rights legislation for children with disabilities ever passed in this country. Prior to its passage in 1975, at least one million children with disabilities in the United States were denied any public education, and at least four million more were segregated from their non-disabled peers."

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