Children’s and youth rights and responsibilities

Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on in 1989.  Estonia joined the convention in 1991. The Child Protection Act of the Republic of Estonia also follows the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child lists internationally acknowledged rights of children. The aim of the adoption of the convention was to emphasize something that adults tend to forget – a child is a human together with all the rights a parent has. The Convention on the Rights of the Child sees child as a subject of law or, to put in another way, as a holder of rights. This means that a child is an individual who has human rights and no one has owner’s rights over the child, including parents.

Rights of a child are human rights. These are rights which apply to everyone, irrespective of age, gender, nationality or other characteristics. Therefore a child has mostly the same rights that adults have. When we speak about rights of a child we mean the child’s human rights.

Children of different age and gender have various interests and needs. But despite the differences, they have equal rights. All of them have the right to equal treatment. All children have equal rights.

In addition to rights, children also have responsibilities, like adult members of the society. A child’s rights end where the rights of another child or an adult begin. This means that rights have limits and a child must consider the rights of other children and adults when exercising his/her rights. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.

A child has the right to education, but at the same time his/her duty is to attend school.  A child has a right to health protection, but he/she has an obligation take care of his/her health. A child has a right to free speech, but by exercising one's right to free speech, the child must respect the rights of other children and adults, above all the right to protect one's honour and dignity.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child gives the child the right to exercise his/her rights and bear obligations. This means that as the child grows his/her right to decide himself/herself increases and so does the scope of responsibility. Until a child is not able to execute his/her rights, his/her parents or representatives will do it. The interests of the child must always be the starting point.

As children cannot always protect their rights and interests, they need help and protection from adults. Children have to be protected from mental and physical violence, injustice, negligence, abuse, sexual abuse and other threats. Additionally, adults must ensure that children have what they need to live and establish suitable conditions for the development of children's skills and interests.

The basis for a mutually respectful living environment is mutual respect. Children must respect adults (parents, grandparents, kindergarten and school teachers, etc.) and other children like adults must respect children and other adults. Mutual respect and consideration of wishes is one of the important premises of the society's coexistence.

The Convention on the Rights of Children lists four general principles: prohibition of unfair treatment, setting the interests of a child as a priority, survival of a child, ensuring a child's development and taking a child's opinions into consideration. These four principles form the basis of the convention and a child friendly environment standard, which enables the child to develop harmoniously and realise all his/her potentials, if it is followed. (Read more: Children’s rights. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2005, pages 11–15, 41.)

  1. Prohibition of unfair treatment. All children have equal rights. A child cannot be treated worse than others due to his/her gender, origin, nationality, race, health condition or some other reason.
  2. Setting the interests of a child as a priority. One of the main principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is to always make the interests of the child as priority when making decisions that have an impact on the child.   To guarantee a child friendly society, the legislator, government, employees, unions and members of the society must evaluate the impact of decisions and activities on children. The interests of a child must always be taken into account when making decisions and planning activities. Setting the interests of a child as a priority means, among other things, that the child's concerns are paid attention to and his/her opinion is taken into consideration.
  3. Guaranteeing survival and development. Every child has a right to life and development. The primary obligation of parents is to do whatever they can to establish a growth environment for their children, which enables them to grow and to realise their talents and skills. In relation to that, the state must offer every kind of help, counselling and support to parents. If the parents, despite every kind of help from the state, cannot guarantee necessary development conditions for children, the state must take this obligation over from parents. 
  4. Paying attention to the child’s opinions. A child's opinion must be heard and taken into consideration in child related issues. This principle must be applied in all aspects of a child's life. (Read more: Children’s rights. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2005, page 71)


Click on the link and read more on the child’s rights and obligations.

  • Right to life and development

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 6, section 23; the Constitution, section 16)

Every child has an innate right to life and maximum possible (i.e. capability based) development. A parent has a right and an obligation to raise and teach their children and to look after their wellbeing.

All children have the right to life and development even those who have a disease or a physical or mental disability. An environment based on the children’s needs and promoting maximum development must be available to children even with illnesses or disabilities. This environment has to be equal to the growing environment a healthy child has. Living conditions for a child with an illness or with a mental or physical disability, must guarantee to the child his/her dignity, promote the development of self-confidence and enable the child to participate actively in the society.

Many other rights of a child must be ensured for the child to develop as much as possible, like right to health protection, right to education, playing and resting. These are discussed in more detail under other rights.

Family is a natural living environment for a child. A parent is the primary person responsible for the child's growth and development. The state must raise and develop children who cannot live in their families, preferably in family like conditions.

An environment which enables the child to develop as well as possible means that the child must be guaranteed the best possible childhood. A child must be raised so that his/her natural skills and capabilities are taken into consideration. A child must have harmonious, loving, happy and understanding growth environment.

Right to life and development is the basis to other principles guaranteeing growth, which are included in other articles of the convention. These discuss the right to education, health, adequate living standard and playtime.  These articles of the convention, which protect a child from mistreatment, abuse and the effects of a military conflict, are related with the right to life and development. They further the recovery of children who got drawn into such situation and ensure special care and protection to children with disabilities.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 83–93.

Children’s rights. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2005, page 41.


  • Right to protection

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 19, 20, 32, 37; the Constitution, sections 18, 28, 29)

A child cannot always protect himself/herself. At the same time, it is important that a child is taken care of in any situation with means suitable to his/her age and that his/her safety is guaranteed. A child must be protected from any mental and physical violence, injustice, negligence, careless or cruel treatment or exploitation and sexual or other type of abuse. A child has a right to special protection and help from one’s family, society, local governmen and state.

Protection from violence

A child like an adult has complete right to dignity. Any kind of violence, not mental or physical, targeted towards children is not justified. Therefore a child has the right not to be physically mistreated and to be protected from cruel and humiliating treatment. Mistreatment is considered to be torturing, cruel, inhuman or humiliating treatment or punishment.

Mental violence is considered to be humiliation, insulting, isolation and other activities, which have an impact on the child's mental health. Humiliating effect can also come from punishment, which is expressed in humiliation, creating a feeling of embarrassment, taunting, injustice, threatening, scaring or ridiculing. Children with physical and mental disabilities are extremely vulnerable to mental violence. Humiliating treatment is considered to be physical or mental pain or causing suffering with an aim to humiliate another person.

Physical punishment is one type of mistreatment. Physical punishment is considered to be any punishment where physical strength is used and where the aim is to cause any slight or great pain and discomfort. Physical punishment is considered to be striking or hitting with a tool, but also hair pulling, shaking, throwing, scratching, poking, burning or forced eating. Physical punishment is degrading for a child.

Physical or any other degrading treatment can take place in home, at school or in other places. It does not matter whether the punisher is father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, school or kindergarten teacher or someone else – physical or other kind of degrading punishment can never be considered acceptable. Degrading and violent (physical and mental) behaviour between children is also unacceptable.

Physical and any other degrading treatment has a negative effect on the child's self-esteem and violates his/her right to physical integrity. A parent should not behave towards a child in a way, which the parent considers to be inappropriate behaviour by others towards the parent. 

Nevertheless, physical punishment targeted towards children occurs unfortunately in every country. Physical punishment of children is justified with traditions, raising methods, but also with protecting the rights of the child. It is in the interest of the child to be protected from any type of violence. By applying physical punishment, a parent is making the child afraid of him/her, but does not gain any respect. Besides, physical punishment does not help the child to understand, why the activity is forbidden. Physical punishment only teaches through fear to blindly obey commands and demands of a stronger and bigger person.  Children depend on adults and they need protection from violence by adults.

The first country to ban physical punishment of children was Sweden, with a Family Act adopted in 1979.

Adults have a lot to learn on how to punish children. It is necessary to be able to see the incident through the eyes of the child. Usually, a child's aim is not to behave badly. Mistakes are caused by a lack of knowledge and due to the fact that a child cannot assess situations like an adult. Adults do not have the right to treat children degradingly only because children do not understand the world as adults do. Understanding can be increased with words and attitude. To the child, the punishment has to seem fair and in proportion with the done deed. Children desire greatly to be like adults – smart. Let’s give them a chance, learn ourselves and teach right behaviour by setting an example.

The task of adults dealing with children is to protect children both from mental and physical violence. This means that adults must stand up for children and inform about occasions when children have been physically punished, physically and mentally mistreated or if there is a chance or there is a doubt.   It is obligatory to inform a child protection official of a local municipality and in case of need to the police about a child in need of help. One should call to the children's helpline 11611 to receive consultation. Received information is forwarded to suitable specialists (the police, child protection officials of local municipalities, etc.). 

The Supreme Court has stated in case no 3-2-1-145-01 on 5 December 2001, concerning physical punishment of children, that the law prohibits a method of punishment, which torments the child, causes physical damages or in any other way threatens his/her mental or physical health.   In the same decision the court has also stated that guaranteeing the observance of principles of the law is done in the interest of the public.  

The general principle states that the best growing environment for a child is in his/her family with parents. A child can be separated from his/her family only if there is serious doubt that the child is mistreated in the family. The European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no 38000(1)/05 R. K., A. K. versus the United Kingdom that a child may be temporarily separated from his/her family and it is permitted if there is a mistreatment doubt.

Protection of children from unsuitable work

The constitution prohibits adult and child forced labour. Children should not be abused to get work done. A child cannot do work that is dangerous to him/her, does not enable him/her to attend school or is hazardous to his/her health and development.

The Employment Contracts Act regulates the working of children. It includes age limits and special conditions regulating children’s work. Depending on the minor’s age, he/she needs to have a permit from a parent or from a labour inspector to work.

Social protection

A child has the right to social protection, including social insurance. If parents cannot provide maintenance to a child due to lack of work, illness, special needs, old age, etc. the child must have economic support from the state.

Therefore the law prescribes various support schemes (e.g. family support) and social services to children and families with children.  The state must take care of the child, if his/her parents or other persons responsible are not doing it.

Information on support and services offered to children and families with children by the state can be received from the local city or rural municipality government or from the children's helpline 116111.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no 39948/06 Saviny versus Ukraine that if the local government feels that the parents cannot provide suitable conditions for children, only factual circumstances are not enough to back it up. The local government must definitely prove that the same circumstances give sufficient cause to separate a child from his/her family. This means that the decision to separate a child from his/her family must be based on evidence, which have not been collected only during random visits by the officials of the local government. It is also necessary to have the opinions of doctors and if possible, depending on the age, also the child's opinion. All other alternatives must be considered before a child is separated from his/her family. It might be possible that the situation can be solved with counselling, economic, food or clothes aid. Once the child has been separated from the family, all around support must be continuously provided to the child and to parents, to make it possible for the child to return home. The child must be able to keep in touch with his/her family regularly, while being separated from the family, and children from one family should be kept in the same child care institution, if possible.

The European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no 27751/95 K. A. versus Finland that a better and more suitable growing environment, which the child would have after being relocated to a new family, is not sufficient cause to separate a child from his/her biological parents.  Other significant circumstances have to be present to separate a child from his/her parents.

Protection from narcotic and psychotropic substances

Children must be protected from the use of narcotic and psychotropic substances. Legal, administrative, social and educational measures will be used to guarantee this.

It is necessary to have preventive work on the state level to protect children from narcotic and psychotropic substances and to have treatment and rehabilitation for dependent children.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 249–273, 277–289, 479–498, 547–567.

Verhellen, E. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2000, page 157.)


  • Right to health protection

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 24; the Constitution, section 28)

Right to health protection is linked with the right to life. A child must be guaranteed the chance to be healthy and to receive medical aid.

Every child has the right to the best possible health, medical equipment and treatment and an equal right to receive aid and care.

Children in Estonia will have free health insurance until they reach the age of 19 (clause 5 (4)  2) of the Health Insurance Act). By that age the children have also the right to receive free dental treatment.

Children have the obligation to take care of their health. This means that a child is responsible for his/her personal hygiene, eat healthily, develop his/her physical capabilities and have enough rest. Evidently, he/she must abstain from health damaging lifestyles, including smoking, alcohol and drugs.

The number for anonymous helpline for drug addicts is 1707. Psychologists are consultants on the other end. You can call to the helpline if you want information on services supporting to get rid of any kind of addiction or you want to talk about your problems. 

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 343–375.


  • Right to privacy

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 16; the Constitution, section 26)

It is prohibited to interfere with any child’s private life, family matters, correspondence and intrude into their home arbitrarily and illegally. A child has a right to a personal life, friends and acquaintances. This means that a child must be guaranteed privacy in every situation, including in the family. Right to privacy means also that a child's family and home must be protected from an unlawful intrusion.

Children’s right to privacy is violated by video surveillance at schools. Video surveillance must be reasonably explained and it has to be in proportion with an objective in mind. As video surveillance violates fundamental rights, it is always necessary to find out, when considering applying video surveillance, whether it has a lawful objective or not. Video surveillance can be justifiably applied on the front door of a school to prevent theft and other improper activities. Surveillance in classrooms to check what teachers or students are doing in the class, might not be justifiable.

Children must also have the possibility to use toilets and wash rooms privately in a children's institution. Also, a child's age is irrelevant – any child of any age has the right to privacy and the child’s right to privacy must be respected.

A child has a right to receive medical or legal counselling without his/her parent’s approval and without the parent being informed about it. Obviously, the doctor must also consider the child's age and maturity.

A Child’s right to privacy cannot be violated with arbitrary or illegal intervention, thereby violating the child’s honour, dignity and good reputation. Recurring gross intervention to the child’s private life can be considered as basis to bring administrative or disciplinary action against the violator or limit or deprive the parent’s custody.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 203–211.


  • Right to care by both parents

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 7, 9, 10; the Constitution, section 27; Family Law Act, sections 116, 117, 118)

Family is a natural development environment for a child. Primary responsibility for raising and developing a child lies on his/her parents. Children have the right to be cared by both parents and have the right to communicate with both parents even if they are not living together.

A child has the right to being brought up by his/her parents. Family is the best growing environment for a child. The state has a duty to educate parents and families and support the establishment of development conditions necessary for children. The parents have the obligation and right to take care of their child. Married parents have joint custody over their child. Parents, who are not married at the moment of the child's birth registration, can have joint custody if they do not express their will to give guardianship only to one of the parents, when declaring their expression of will of parenthood admission. Parents with custody rights fulfil their custody obligation at their own responsibility and in agreement, bearing in mind the child's complete wellbeing.

A child has a right to his/her parents' care. At the same time, the child is obliged to help, suitably to his/her age, his/her parents, teachers and other members of the family and participate in joint activities and daily work of the family. An adult and a child must support and respect each other and take into consideration each other's interests and rights.

The child must have a permanent living residence even if your parents live separately. The child’s interests have to be taken into account when the place of residence is chosen. In any case, the place of residence issue should be discussed with the child and the solution must be the best for the child.

A child can be separated from his/her parents only if it is in the interest of the child. For instance, when the child experiences violence in the family or the child is treated cruelly.

The child has the right to communicate with both parents. If the child’s interests are not in jeopardy, he/she must be able to interact regularly with both parents even if they are separated. The possibility to interact with a parent not living with the child must be guaranteed even when the parents have a bad relationship with each other. The child has the right to continue interacting with his/her parent even if the parent has moved abroad. The child cannot be forced to interact with a parent who scares the child or if the interaction with the parent is not in the interest of the child for any other reason.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 97–109, 121–131, 135–140.

The Supreme Court has stated on 30 May 2011 in case no. 3-2-1-32-11 decision that a parent living with the child must abstain from activities that damage the child's relationship with the other parent. If a parent damages the child's relationship with another parent, then he/she violates the child's right, prescribed in the first sentence of subsection 143 (1) of the Family Law Act, to personally communicate with both parents. A parent must always bear in mind the best interests of the child when executing his/her rights as a parent and exercise his/her rights as a parent in good faith also without the court's designated detailed interaction procedure.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no. 41615/07 Neulinger, Shuruk versus Switzerland that  in custody cases, on the one hand, it is required to maintain as close as possible family relations (except in cases when a family is completely unsuitable for the child for some reason). Family relations can be terminated only in certain exceptional cases. All means to keep the family together must be exhausted, before the relations are terminated. If possible, it is obligatory to help to restore family relations. On the other hand, it is in the child's interest that a parent, who would have a negative impact on the child's development or health, does not have the right to interact with his/her child.

The Supreme Court has said in case no. 3-2-1-4-07 of 1 March 2007 that a court can deprive a parent’s rights if the parent has misused his/her rights or has unlawfully or wrongfully neglected his/her obligations as a parent to raise and care for the child.  When a parent leaves his/her child without care and oversight, i.e. intentionally does not fulfil his/her obligations as a parent, is also considered evasion of fulfilling one’s obligations. The panel finds it important to mention that depriving a parent of his/her parental rights is an extreme judicial remedy to protect the interests of the child. The aim of the law is not to punish the parent with the deprivation of rights, but to protect the child from a parent who without any serious reason does not properly fulfil his/her obligations as a parent or who with his/her activity causes damage to the child’s interests.

The court has stated in the same decision that a harmful effect on a child is not only a parent's violent or threatening behaviour towards the child, but it can also be violent or threatening behaviour towards people close to the child, if the child senses such behaviour. Therefore threatening phone calls between parents may have a harmful effect to the child, although the child does not know the exact contents of the phone calls.

The European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no 36065/97 on 26 September 2006 that placing a child to a social welfare institution should be a temporary measure, which should be stopped immediately when the situation allows it. A child can be placed to a social welfare institution with an aim to take him/her back to the family as soon as possible. The court has also state that complete termination of parental relations can take place only in very extreme cases when it is absolutely necessary to protect the child's interests. The court has prescribed that to protect the parents, the state must guarantee the parents’ access to information related with the child's placement to a social welfare institution, as parents must be able to participate in child related decision making and to demonstrate their capabilities in taking care of the child.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has discussed a parent's rights to meet his/her child, in case no. 30943/96 Sahin versus Germany on 8 July 8 2003.  The court has stated that article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the privacy of family and private life, requires that a state should consider the interests of parents and children. According to the opinion of the court, special attention has to be paid to the child’s interests when considering the interests of the child and parents, because the interests of the child might outweigh the interests of parents in importance and character. Article 8 states that a parent cannot adopt such measures in dealings with his/her child that would have a negative impact on the child's health and development. Article 8 protects the family’s integrity, which also includes the child's and parent’s mutual right to be with each other. This decision shows how the aspect of child's health and development has outweighed,  in the interest of the child, the parent's right to meet with the child.

Case no 21188/09 on 12 April 2011 Gluhaković versus Croatia in the European Court of Human Rights shows that the court’s decision, which states the place and time of meetings, is insufficient to ensure the right of a separated parent and a child not living with the parent to meet. When deciding upon the time and place of meetings, the court must consider whether meetings are actually possible under these circumstances and conditions. In this case, the state court had decided upon meeting times, which did not suit for the father, who did not live with the child, due to the nature of his work, and a meeting place, which was not assessed for its suitability. Parents must facilitate meetings and in case of need to apply measures, so that the meetings would take place.


  • Right to name and citizenship

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 7, 8; the Constitution, sections 9 and 26; Names Act; Citizenship Act)

Every person is different and special, i.e. unique. Therefore every person has the right to his/her acknowledgement of speciality, which is ensured with birth registration and issuing suitable documents. Upon birth registration, the child receives his/her birth certificate. All children born in Estonia are registered in Estonia, despite the place of residence of their parents and citizenship.

A child has the right to have a name upon birth. Name distinguishes and emphasizes uniqueness. A child receives his/her first and last name, personal identity code and birth certificate when he/she is entered in the Estonian population register.  Pursuant to law, it is obligatory to register the child within the first month after birth. A child without a birth certificate does not exist for the state. Without birth registration, a child might not receive state aid and protection – medical care and education that he/she needs. State has many reasons to maintain an account over children. One of the reasons is to assess the need for schools and kindergartens.

Citizenship means constant legal link between a person and a state. Citizenship grants a person citizenship related rights and obligations and the state’s protection. One becomes a citizen of Estonia by birth if one of the parents is a citizen of Estonia. One can become a citizen later also. According to the international law, the state does not have the obligation to give citizenship to all children born on their territory. But the state is obliged to do everything (cooperation with other countries if necessary) so that a child would have citizenship by birth. Among other things, the state has an obligation to protect and in case of need to restore the basics of a child's identity, which are name, citizenship and family relations.

The right to keep one’s name, maintain one’s citizenship and family relations are directly linked with the integrity of family life, which originates from the Constitution. Let it be said that adoption can violate a child's right to maintain one's identity due to changes in name, citizenship and family relations. Law permits to adopt a child only in the interest of the child. The child's approval for adoption is necessary when the child is at least 10 years old.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 97–109, 113–117.

The Constitution. Commented edition. Updated second print, page 286.


  • Right to mother tongue and culture

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 30; the Constitution, section 49, 50)

The official language of Estonia is Estonian. People of different origin live in Estonia. A child of another national origin has the right to be part of his/her culture and practice his/her religion and speak his/her mother tongue. People speaking other languages can establish educational institutions based on their mother tongue.

Everyone has the right to maintain their national identity. Children of national, religious or language minority have the right to experience their culture together with their community members, confess and practice their religion and use their mother tongue.

Right to mother tongue means that children of national minority must have the possibility to learn their mother tongue. At the same time, they must have the option to study the official language to such extent that in the future they would have equal opportunities in Estonia. Lack of knowledge of the official language places children of minority origin, compared with Estonians, to an unequal position.  Therefore, children whose mother tongue is not the official language, must have the opportunity to learn their language so that they would not lose the link with their nationality and culture, but they must be educated in the official language so that they would be competitive in obtaining higher education and in the job market.

With the right to language and culture comes the obligation to preserve nature, culture and the living environment. By caring for the living environment, the valuable surrounding environment is saved for oneself and for future generations.  Preserving cultural objects and the living environment means that one should not scribble, write or paint on the walls and trash should be always put to waste bin.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef, Geneva 2007, p 435–466.

The European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no 5095/71; 5920/72; 5926/72 Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen, Pedersen versus Denmark that education given to the children must be objective, critical and pluralistic, so that it would take into consideration the parents' religious and moral beliefs.  The parents must have the opportunity to teach their children to get to know their beliefs and convictions.


  • Right to education

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 28, 29; the Constitution, section 37; Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, section 9).

A child has the right to education. The state must keep open enough educational institutions (basic schools, upper secondary schools, vocational schools and institutions of higher education) so that education would be available to everyone who desires it. Necessary study materials and basic and upper secondary school education have to be available without charge.

Additionally, right to education means that the study environment must be suitable and hobby education must be available. Children with special needs have the same kind of right. Right to education is accompanied with compulsory school attendance. School attendance is compulsory until basic education is completed or until one turns 17. Children have an obligation to study according to their capabilities and prepare themselves for an independent life full of responsibilities, which means that they are able to handle social relations, being a citizen, monetary matters, politics, sexual life and many other things.

It is not obligatory to continue one’s studies after the completion of basic education, but basic education is insufficient to find a likeable and well-paid job. It is most sensible to continue studying either in a vocational school or upper secondary school and later in a university.

Right to education means also that next to study materials children have also the right to teachers. Children with special needs have the same kind of right. The state is obliged to develop study materials.

A child has the right to education that is aimed at developing his/her personality, gifts, physical capabilities and potential as completely as possible. Therefore, among other things, the education must teach to respect human rights and increase respect towards cultural and other values.

The school’s disciplinary system must not violate a child's dignity.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 407–432, 437–451.

Verhellen, E. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2000, page 172.

The European Court of Human Rights has stated in case no 15766/03 on 16 March 2010 Oršuš et al. versus Croatia that a very serious reason must be behind unequal treatment of children in school. This case discussed the school education for Romas. Separate classes were formed of Romas, which were supposed to be opportunity classes. Formation of separate classes was justified with insufficient knowledge of the local language. The court decided that formation of separate classes is not in accordance with discrimination prohibition and right to equal treatment, as the language skills of Romas were not tested adequately before the commencement of studies and during the study process. Special classes could have been justified if suitable tests would have been applied and the school would have wanted to deal with the language skills of students in special classes with an aim to integrate them to ordinary classes step by step.

The European Court of Justice has stated in case C-480/08 Maria Teixeira versus London Borough of Lambeth, Secretary State of Home Department that according to  regulation no. 1612/68 article 12 of the Council of Europe, a child will have the right in the European Union to have access to education, if he/she has started to live in a member state of the European Union while his/her parent works there. The right is still valid even when the child's parent loses his/her job. The purpose of the article is to ensure that the children of the citizens of EU member countries could finish their studies at their school in the member state where their parents used to work as a migrant worker, if their parents should lose their jobs. The court has stated in the same case that the right of residence, allowing the parent to remain in the country, of the parent taking care of the child ends when the child becomes an adult (except in cases when a child needs the presence and care of his/her parent to continue and complete his/her studies).

The European Court of Justice has stated in case C-413/99 Baumbast, R. versus Secretary of State for the Home Department that the right way to interpret article 12 of regulation 1612/68, which gives children the right to live in the host State and attend a school of general education there, is so that the article allows the parent raising the child, irrespective of the parent’s citizenship, to live together with the child to facilitate the execution of this right, despite the fact that the parents have divorced or if the parent, who is a EU citizen, is no longer an employee in the host State.


  • Right to freely express one's opinion

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, articles 12, 13; the Constitution, sections 41,45)

A child has been considered to be a dependent, invisible and passive member of the family. The attitude of current parents towards children has changed. Children are given increasingly more chances to state their opinions. Dialogue, negotiations and inclusion are keywords, which are increasingly more linked with children. Thus, a family is hopefully becoming the first place for children where they can familiarise themselves with democracy.

A child is an equal member of a society and his/her opinion matters. A child has the right to express his/her opinion on every matter that concerns him/her and he has the right to be heard and to his/her opinion to be taken into consideration. This means that a child has the right to express his/her opinion on all matters, which are related to him/her directly or indirectly.  Age is of no importance. A child has to be treated as an active member of a family and society who has his/her understanding, interests and opinion.

A child's freedom of speech means the right to ask, receive and disclose information and ideas orally, in writing, in the form of art or in any other way the child chooses. Freedom of speech can be restricted only if arising from law, is necessary for the respect of rights or reputation of other people, protecting national security, public order or public health or morality. A child has the right to disclose his/her opinions and feelings in any way and place, except if it would violate the rights of third persons. A child has the right to express his/her opinions and other people are obliged to consider them in every child related issue.

In order for the child to express his/her opinions, it is necessary to introduce him/her the ways and opportunities for expressing opinions and the consequences following opinion expression. But the aforementioned is on the other hand linked with the right to receive diverse information.

In order to guarantee children the possibility and skill to express their opinions as adults and to participate in decision making processes, it is necessary to encourage both boys and girls to take interest in social, economic and political issues.

A child's opinion must be heard and considered in the family and on the society and state level. Children and youth organisations and movements help the children to make their voices heard and children have the absolute right to participate in the activities of these institutions.

Right to freedom of expression is accompanied with an obligation to respect Estonian laws, public order and customs. A child’s obligations in the society increase as he/she gets older. A child, like any other person, must have respect towards laws, order and customs.

Also, children have to adhere to rules set out at home, school, kindergarten, training courses and hobby education courses. By adhering to rules, one shows respect towards other children and adults. Common rules exist so that we would know what kind of behaviour we can expect from others. Therefore it is important that all, including children, follow rules.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 149–169, 177–182.


  • Right to playtime and resting time

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 31)

A child learns and obtains life skills through game. Every child has the right to playtime and resting time, which he/she uses for age suitable and pleasing activities, depending on health, desires and possibilities. A child has the right to participate in cultural and art life.

A child must have enough rest so that he/she would not suffer from illnesses due to overfatigue. Overfatigue threatens the child’s development. Enough rest time does not only include sleep time. Next to school, studies, chores and work1 a child must have enough time for hobbies and interests and relaxing. Parents must consider the aforementioned when making their children do chores and teachers must adhere to aforementioned when giving out homework and setting deadlines for it.

A child must be able to play. This requires suitable conditions. Most of the games have a developing effect. It is important to pay attention to safety while playing. Children must have the option to play games, which do not require guidance from parents and where they don't participate. Child needs freedom while playing and he/she must be able to play creatively and in a disorganised manner.

Right to playing is frequently considered less important, because the link between the child's development and playing is not understood. Limits to a child's opportunity to play , among other things, the family's state of poverty, insufficient number of public land areas suitable for playing and limited understanding of education.

Hodgkin, R.; Newell, P. Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of Child. Third ed. Unicef: Geneva 2007, p 469–476.

Children’s rights. The Principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child of the United Nation in Practice. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2005, pages 13–14.


1  Work time for minors is limited with laws and, depending on the age, in order to work the minor needs an approval either from his/her parent or labour inspector.