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The Right To Free Education


The right to primary and secondary education means more than just free enrolment – it means that all school subjects should be genuinely accessible to everybody.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan today said that international human rights law emphasises that education should be directed towards enabling people to fully develop and participate in society.

“This means that the right to education extends beyond the right to simply receive free instruction in certain core curricular areas such as English; vocational subjects such as horticulture should also be available to those who may not be able to afford a subject fee”.

New Zealand’s own Education Act states that “…. every person who is not a foreign student is entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school during the period beginning on the person’s 5th birthday and ending on the 1st day of January after the person’s 19th birthday”.

“Our own legislation specifically affirms both the right to free enrolment and the right to free education; this makes it undeniable that access to free education extends to a right to receive tuition without having to pay fees,” said Ms Noonan.

The Commission believes that family and community support for local schools is a valuable aspect in the provision of quality education; however, this support should be encouraged in many forms and should not be limited to direct financial contributions.

“Money should not be a barrier to education for all: arrangements to provide students, who can not afford to pay subject fees, with access to all subjects must be made in order to ensure that an essential human right is not denied in New Zealand”.

Ms Noonan concluded that the issue of subject fees highlighted the need for any review of education policy and funding to include a rigorous human rights analysis.


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