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Appendix 4: 'Accessible' and 'available': Social Justice Report 2008

Social Justice Report 2008

Appendix 4: ‘Accessible’ and

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The following definitions of ‘accessible’ and
‘available’ were sourced from the Australian Human Rights
Commission’s Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing

A more detailed discussion of human rights provisions that are relevant to
remote school education can be found in the report of the National Inquiry into
Rural and Remote Education: Emerging Themes. Emerging Themes was
prepared by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2000 and is available
online at:


The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has identified 3
inter-connected elements of 'accessibility' in the context of education.

  1. Non-discrimination - education must be accessible to all, especially the
    most vulnerable groups, in law and fact, without discrimination on any of the
    prohibited grounds;

  2. Physical accessibility - education has to be within safe physical reach,
    either by attendance at some reasonably convenient geographic location (e.g. a
    neighborhood school) or via modern technology (e.g. access to a "distance
    learning" program);

  3. Economic accessibility - education has to be affordable to all. This
    dimension of accessibility is subject to the differential wording of article 13
    (2) [of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] in
    relation to primary, secondary and higher education: whereas primary education
    shall be available "free to all", States parties are required to progressively
    introduce free secondary and higher education (General
    Comment No. 13,
    1999, paragraph 6).

Another element of
'accessibility' is what the Committee has termed 'acceptability': 'the form and
substance of education, including curricula and teaching methods, have to be
acceptable (e.g. relevant, culturally appropriate and of good quality) to
students and, in appropriate cases, parents; this is subject to the educational
objectives required by article 13 (1) and such minimum educational standards as
may be approved by the State (see art. 13 (3) and

Whether education is 'accessible' must be measured by objective criteria.
Children should not be required to forego other entitlements, such as rest and
leisure or cultural commitments, in order to access an education.


'Availability' has four dimensions:

  • Geographic distribution

  • Sufficient quantity

  • Open and non-discriminatory right of entry

  • Provision of proper facilities and staff.

educational institutions and programs have to be available in sufficient
quantity within the jurisdiction of the State party. What they require to
function depends upon numerous factors, including the developmental context
within which they operate; for example, all institutions and programs are likely
to require buildings or other protection from the elements, sanitation
facilities for both sexes, safe drinking water, trained teachers receiving
domestically competitive salaries, teaching materials, and so on; while some
will also require facilities such as a library, computer facilities and
information technology.'[3]

Secondary schooling must be 'generally available' which means 'firstly, that
secondary education is not dependent on a student's apparent capacity or ability
and, secondly, that secondary education will be distributed throughout the State
in such a way that it is available on the same basis to all'. [4]

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[1] Australian Human Rights
Commission, Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper, (2001). At (viewed 30 January 2009).
[2] The
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No.
, (1999), para 6. At (viewed 14 January 2009).
[3] The
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No.
, (1999), para 6(a). At (viewed 14 January 2009).
[4] The
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No.
, (1999), para 13. At (viewed 14 January 2009).