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DeJusticia vs Government of Colombia File D-7933 Sentence C-376/10

Free education in Colombia

Name of Case

DeJusticia vs Government of Colombia File D-7933 Sentence C-376/10


Colombia, free education, enforceability of the right to education, primary education, economic, social and cultural rights.


Constitutional Court Colombia

Remainder of Citation

File D-7933 Sentence C-376/10


Colombia is one of the few Latin American countries where basic education is not fully free. Following article 183 of Act 115 of 1994 the government may charge tuition fees to those families who are able to pay them. To this end the government defines scales that take into account the socioeconomic status of students, variations in the cost of living, family composition and the complementary services of the school.  

On what breach of law was the case brought?

The plaintiffs alleged that article 183 of Act 115 of 1994 violates the following constitutional provisions: Article 93 of the Constitution, since human rights treaties ratified by Colombia force the state to ensure free primary education. These international human rights standards are: Article 13 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified by Law 74 of 1968, Article 26 of the American Convention on Human Rights ratified by Law 16 of 1972, the Articles 13 and 16 of the Protocol of San Salvador, which was ratified by Law 319 of 1996 and Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Law 12 of 1991. Article 183 of Act 115 of 1994 also violates Article 44 of the Constitution, which enshrines education as one of the fundamental rights. Finally, Article 115 of the 1994 Act violates Article 67 of the Constitution which guarantees free education in formal educational institutions.

(Read the petition in Spanish)

Result of case

(No. 27  19th May 2010)

The principles of compulsory and free education deny the possibility of charging tuition fees for primary education.

The Court stated that public education should be free at all levels, to the extent that it is a mechanism to achieve accessibility to education for all. However, States must adopt different strategies based on the obligation of free and compulsory primary education and the progressive realisation of free secondary and tertiary levels of education.


Other themes:

Cases on availability

Cases on civil and political rights

Cases on free education

Cases on language

Cases on nationality

Cases on progressive realisation and state budget

Cases on racial discrimination

Cases on progressive realisation and discrimination
Cases on justiciability