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Decision C-376/10 of the Colombian Constitutional Court

Year: 2009 (Date of Decision: 1 November, 2009)

Forum, Country: Constitutional Court; Colombia

Standards, Rights: Core content; Right to education; Children

Summary Background: The plaintiffs filed a constitutional claim challenging the imposition of fees for public primary education.

Holding: The Court ruled that charging tuition for public primary school was a violation of the Constitution and ordered that all such schools in the nation must cease charging students tuition fees [para. VII].

The Court also referenced the Constitutional National Assembly discussions and found that the authors of the Colombian Constitution intended that primary education in the country would be free [para. VI 8.1]. This approach was seen to be in conformity with Colombia’s obligations under international human rights treaties, which constitute a basis for the Constitution.

Additionally, the Court expressed concern that the levy of fees for primary education could pose an obstacle to accessing the education system and realizing the right to education [para. VI 6].

Citing a wide array of international human rights law instruments, the Court concluded that the State has a clear, immediate obligation to guarantee free primary education, while in the case of secondary and higher-level education, the obligation is of a progressive nature [paras. VI.3].

Additional Comments: This case addresses the State duty to respect the human right to education.

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