Community education is an important avenue for human rights education. It is a concept that has been adopted by some countries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and Singapore. It mainly promotes the idea that education should extend beyond the formal school system and cover adults and other citizens in their continuing quest for knowledge. The idea of life-long education is another feature of this system.
The system is translated into various forms in different countries. In Japan, the government established education centers which are open for different educational activities of the communities. Programs organized solely by the government or in partnership with non-governmental organizations are held. In Singapore, residential committees (organizations of residents in a housing complex) provide education programs to its members. In Australia, residents of some communities set up their own education centers and receive support from the government for some educational programs. In South Korea, private institutions provide education opportunities to community members. In Taiwan, a unit of a university in the southern part of the province has been set up to train personnel on community education program.
Human rights education does not come in automatically into the program of community education. Each country presents a different situation. In Japan, the local government in Osaka area has adopted a program on educating people about the discrimination issue. The program is called DOWA education. In Australia, community organizations provide an opportunity for important issues such as human rights to be discussed as they see fit. In Singapore, human rights are not discussed.
The presence or absence of human rights education component in community education depends on the members of the community (as in the case of Australia) or on government policy as in the case of Japan and Singapore. In the latter cases, government involvement in community education is quite strong. Japan has taken up significant social issues as part of the program for community education. In Singapore, due maybe to the policy of subscribing to government programs, residential committees do not consider human rights as appropriate subject to be learned.
In a workshop on this issue held by the Asia-South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE), in Osaka, Japan on January 14, 1996 most participants support the idea that governments should support community education. But they should leave the management of the program to the members of the communities. This implies freedom on the part of the communities to determine the subject matter to be included in the education program. Thus issues such as human rights can be freely discussed as part of making the people more equipped to exercise their role in society.
The ASPBAE workshop also dealt with education on the foreign migrant workers issue. The significant number of foreign migrant workers in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Australia who face work and residence-related problems cause the rising concern for providing education programs that will address these problems.