You must not be discriminated against in educational institutions such as schools or universities, regardless of whether they are owned by the state, a municipality or are private institutions.

You must not be denied access to education or be treated worse or graded lower than other students on discriminatory grounds. The prohibition of discrimination protects all current and prospective pupils or students in all state, municipal and private educational institutions. These include kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities.

Discrimination in education may include cases where someone is given priority over you only because you possess certain characteristics. It may also occur when you are treated worse in the education process because you belong to a certain race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or possess other characteristics that are prohibited grounds for discrimination. 

example A college or university must not reject an application to a childcare course only because the applicant is male and they do not think it is appropriate for a male to be working with children. Similarly, a school may not refuse to enroll a child or grade the child lower only because of his/her Roma ethnicity.

important Educational institutions may accept students who pass a specific test or other competition. Even if you belong to a certain race, nationality or other group of people, but your application is rejected because other applicants were more successful on their merits, it will not be considered discrimination.

In Estonia, the Equal Treatment Act and Gender Equality Act apply also to the area of education, in combination providing protection from discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender, and race or ethnic origin. In addition, the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia prohibits discrimination in general regardless of the ground. However, in certain situations, private educational institutions are allowed to choose specific types of students by applying the exception of ethos.  

What human rights violation may there be?

The prohibition of discrimination will be violated if you or your child are not accepted by a school or other educational institution or are treated worse in the educational process only because you are of a certain gender, race, or ethnicity or possess other characteristics that are prohibited grounds.

If you or your child do not have access to a particular type of education, it may also violate the right to education.

How to complain

If you believe that you may have been discriminated against by an educational institution, you may file a complaint to the Ministry of Education and Science, if it concerns educational standards in general or if it concerns the provision of education in a state school, or to an education authority of the respective local government, if it concerns the provision of education in a municipal school. 

If you believe that you have been discriminated against by a public educational institution, you may also submit a complaint to the administrative court.

Additionally, there is a possibility to turn to the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner or to the Chancellor of Justice for their opinion.

Read more about how to complain.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education