Discrimination in education

Discrimination in education is the act of discriminating against people belonging to certain categories in enjoying full right to education. It is considered a violation of enunciated human rights.[1] Education discrimination can be on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, race, economic condition, disability and religion.

The Convention against Discrimination in Education adopted by UNESCO on 14 December 1960 aims to combat discrimination and racial segregation in education. As at December 2016, 102 states were members of the Convention.

Education discrimination in different countries


Australia has had a history of racial discrimination against Indigenous Australians in many areas, including education. In 1966, Australia signed the Convention against Discrimination in Education. Each state now has comprehensive anti-discrimination laws that prohibit such discrimination.[2] In 1992, Australia enacted the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwth) to outlaw discrimination against students with disabilities.[3]


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.[4] An example of such discrimination that is reflected in the 2013 Human Rights Watch report is of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and intellectual disability who were denied enrollment in nearby schools due to their disabilities. Their parents then had to travel long distances from home to find a place for their disabled children for basic education.

There are also policies for geographical allocation of available sits in higher education system which led to regional discrimination in the Higher Education Entrance Examination. In China every person has a place of origin in connection to his/her birthplace, and moving or resettlement to provinces/zones other than the ones of origin are subject to receive permits from the authorities. 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.


Cuba has a diverse and multicultural society and there is potentially an available arena for various forms of racial discrimination to grow. Some believe the Cuban educational system suffers from racial discrimination, especially against Afro-Cubans,[5][6] but the existence of counterparts who believe otherwise[7] can not be neglected.

In the 1960s and 1970s, when the sexual minority groups were sentenced to stay in rehabilitation camps, they automatically lost the opportunity for higher education and were bound to "re-education" by the state. In 2010, Fidel Castro acknowledged such discrimination during his rule, regretting that he did not pay enough attention to the “great injustice” suffered.[8]

Islamic Republic of Iran

After the Islamic revolution, the new government focused on the Islamization of the country's educational system. Ruhollah Khomeini was in strong favor of single-sex schools and expressed it in his speech at the anniversary of the birth of Fatimah bint Muhammad, which soon became policy in the country. The political figure stated:

"As the religious leaders have influence and power in this country, they will not permit girls to study in the same school with boys. They will not permit women to teach at boys' schools. They will not permit men to teach at girls' schools. They will not allow corruption in this country."[9]

The current constitution of Iran states in Article 4 that: "All civil, penal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. This principle applies absolutely and generally to all articles of the Constitution as well as to all other laws and regulations" The cultural and religious embodiments of Androcentrism can be seen throughout the countries infrastructure and policies. For instance, Iran still considers ‘‘household and childcare as women’s primary responsibility,"[10] as shown 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.[11]

United States

The United States is not a signatory to the Convention against Discrimination in Education. The United States has always had institutional discrimination, with very high discrimination rates. Discrimination in education is not only performed by one individual but by big organizations as well. Discrimination can also take place by a teacher which might have higher standards for one students than the other. Segregating schools is a way in which low income students may be isolated from higher income students, which causes them to have a much less efficient education. In 2004 many schools had a very disproportianed number of minority students specific schools, in a Seattle neighborhood where the population was 95% Caucasian the schools population was 99% black and Hispanic. (Kozol, 22)[12] In San Diego CA, Rosa Parks school has 86% black and Hispanic students and only 2% white, and in Los Angeles CA there is a school that bears the name of Dr. King and it has 99% black and Hispanic students. (Kozol, 24)[12]

In the 1970s when the number students attending New York's schools were still substantially non-equal white, the number of doctors was around 400. As the number of white students started to decline so did the number of doctors available to attend to the needs of students. By 1993 the number of doctors had been cut to 23 and most of them were part-time doctors, children in the Bronx where all these doctors had been removed from were 20 more times more likely than those children living in the city to suffer from asthma. (kazol, 42)[13] Another clear example of discrimination that occurs today not just in the past is also clearly seen based on how each students is categorized with a price tag on them a soon as they started attending school. The students living in a low income community with low income families are valued at a lower priced then students that attend rich a schools and live in a higher class community. What this labeling means is that if you are born in a low income community you might received for example $8,000 a year but if you are born in a rich community and attend a school at a rich community you might be receiving $16,000 a year for school education. "In 1998, New York's Board of Education spent about $8,000 yearly on the education of a third grade child in a New York City public school". (Kozol, 45)[14] If you were to lift that same child and put them in a typical white suburb of New York he/she would be worth about $12,000, if you were to pick that child up once again and put him/her in one of the wealthiest white suburbs of New York their price tag goes up to $18,000. (Kozol, 45) [14] This labeling of students and how much they will be receiving towards school education is clearly an example of discriminations and a way in which the poor stay poor and the rich keep getting chances to get richer. Teachers at schools also get discriminated against, the wages they get paid in a low income school is far less than those working in wealthy neighborhoods, the conditions in which schools are maintained is also discriminatory because students can't learn the materials and score high on tests if they don't have the proper teachers, proper materials, proper nutrition and adequate class rooms. All of these examples mentioned beforehand are clearly explain with much more detailed information in the book The Shame of The Nation by Jonathan Kozol.

There is discrimination in Education, among schools who are in areas of lower income (generally students of color). In The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol, he provides us with examples of students who come from lower income residences attend school with required work related workshops, instead of AP classes.[15] Kozol provides us with an example of a student named Mireya, a black student, who wanted to be a doctor or a social worker, but was required to take a sewing class as well "Life Skill" class (Kozol, 178).[16] In addition Mireya had plans to attend college, Kozol asked the teacher why she was not able to skip these subject and take classes that would help her pursue her college goals, Kozol was faced with the teachers response "It isn't a question of what students want. It's what the school may have available (Kozol, 179).[17] Mireya was face with a confrontation of another student that made a claim "You're ghetto-so you sew!" (Kozol, 180).[18] From this example students of color who are also low income, attend school that appear to be programmed to get them to the workforce (job). As opposed to other privileged schools who are able to provide their students with AP classes, getting them ready for college.