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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume II

How to Use Human Rights Education: How to Implement It

Byung Ok Park

Textbooks assume great importance in the Korean education system. Teaching and learning are textbook-oriented. Textbooks are an integral part of the whole teaching/learning process, especially because the university entrance examination emphasizes thorough mastery of textbooks.

Thus, if you want to improve human rights education (HRE) in Korea, the best way is to include as many HRE components in textbooks as possible. However, it is hardly an easy job when the central government controls the preparation, publication, dissemination and revision of textbooks. So Human Rights Education: How to Implement It adopts a method of analyzing the structure and content of textbooks used at the lower-secondary school level and provides model lesson plans and other information to help teachers conduct HRE.

Published in 1997 by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and funded by the Ministry of Education, the book was welcomed in education circles as a rare and pioneering program in HRE, a long-neglected area in Korean education.

About a decade ago, under an authoritarian regime, many teachers campaigned to create an autonomous teachers union. In order to improve education and make it more democratic, they formed study groups and other organizations. One of their great concerns was to improve HRE in schools. The authors of the book came from different teachers groups, as follows:

  • Sim Seong-bo, Pusan National University of Education, Pusan, (Project Director)
  • Kim Yong-whan, Hannam University, Taejeon
  • Kang Bo-gil, Incheon Mechanical High School, Incheon
  • Kang Hyun-seon, Bangwha Lower Secondary School, Seoul
  • Park Gil-ja, Kaegeum Girls' Lower Secondary School, Pusan
  • Paik Young-ae, Kangnam Girls' Lower Secondary School, Seoul
  • Lee Mi-shik, Tongmyung Girls' Lower Secondary School, Pusan
  • Hyun Won-il, Saeryun Lower Secondary School, Seoul

Although they felt a strong need to improve HRE, administrative and financial reasons prevented them from studying HRE issues in-depth, scientifically or systematically, and from publishing their ideas. Finally, however, a project administered by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO in 1997 and funded by the Ministry of Education gave them the opportunity to disseminate their ideas.

Contents of the book

The book is composed of three sections. The first deals with theory and techniques in HRE. The second analyzes lower-secondary school textbooks from the perspective of human rights and highlights the relationship between the textbooks' sub-topics and human rights objectives. The third presents sample lesson plans, which are the result of the authors' experiences in 1998. The book covers two subjects: Moral Education and Social Studies. It also includes extracurricular activities.

Part I: Theory and Techniques in Human Rights Education

The first chapter, "What are Human Rights?" defines and presents concepts related to human rights. Chapter 2, "Human Rights and Awareness of Human Rights," introduces the history and background of human rights, showing how human rights developed in three generations and analyzing why human rights awareness is weak in Korea. It suggests five reasons: remnants of the feudal consciousness; an immature democracy; an unhealthy level of competitiveness; ideological conflicts arising from the division of the country; and lack of tolerance.

Chapter 3, "Human Rights and Human Rights Education," attempts to answer the question: What is HRE in the Korean context? It first examines human rights principles in relation to Korea and urges that HRE be introduced immediately in schools. The authors say that the education system fosters selfishness and overly emphasizes passing the university entrance examination. HRE is presented as a challenge to this situation. The writer describes the need for HRE at different school levels and suggests how it can help make schools peaceful places where culture and civilization can be imparted.

The second section of Chapter 3 suggests two ways of presenting HRE. One is positive, using diverse materials, information and knowledge on human rights. The other is negative, emphasizing human rights violations or abuses. The next section shows situations in which a child's rights are vulnerable to violation by family, school and society. The following list details many of these cases.

Family: Abuse of children, indifference to children, leaving children home alone, using children to satisfy the parents' own ambitions, abandonment of infants, artificial abortion.

School: Collective bullying, intolerance to other-ness, physical punishment, teachers' prejudice, poor school environment, lack of religious freedom, lack of privacy, lack of sex education.

Society: Violation of the right to life, the rights of the handicapped, civic rights, rights of foreign laborers, human rights of prisoners of conscience; death penalty; compulsory use of the electronic I.D. card; lack of facilities for the handicapped; situations that produce drug addicts, alcoholics, etc.

Finally, the chapter describes six techniques useful to teaching human rights: concept analysis, value clarification, role play, cooperative inquiry, problem solving, and modeling by teacher.

Part II : Analysis of Textbooks and School Life
Chapter 4. Moral Education Textbook

Moral Education as a school subject has existed in the country for many years, reflecting Koreans' appreciation of morality as an essential quality of an educated person. Since morality includes appreciation and/or respect for human dignity, human rights is supposed to be an integral part of Moral Education.

However, Moral Education textbooks do not touch on human rights. The term 'human rights' does not often appear in them. Human-rights-related concepts and principles are mentioned only implicitly. However, the book is based on the belief that if Moral Education aims to teach students to be humane and cultured, it should be firmly established on the principles of human rights. This chapter tries to illustrate the links between current textbook subject matter and HRE topics through a table. A portion of the table, taken from the Moral Education textbook for grade 7, is shown below.

Table 1. Textbook subjects and HRE topics

Table 1

The current Moral Education textbook has the following characteristics.

First, it stresses responsibilities rather than rights. Social responsibility is emphasized as the most important element of democratic attitudes. Second, it focuses too much on the first generation of human rights concepts.

Chapter 5. Social Studies Textbook

In Social Studies, the term "human rights" is not explicitly used either. However, it is generally agreed that democracy was achieved as a result of the widening concept of human rights; studies on civic society and democracy should therefore be based on the appreciation and awareness of various human rights principles.

Lower-secondary school Social Studies covers geography, history and civics. Civics, which is concentrated in grade 9, is closest to human rights ideas.

The Social Studies textbooks do not have overt HRE objectives. It is therefore necessary to prepare lesson plans based on the relationship established between the textbook subject matter and HRE topics.

This chapter begins with two different approaches to human rights. The first is based on the idea that "every human being is entitled to a minimum living standard to maintain human dignity." It naturally takes a historical and sociological approach to human rights. The second one asks, "Who is responsible for the expenses to guarantee minimum living standard? What is meant by 'minimum'?" This approach is philosophical and ethical.

With the first approach in mind, the writer uses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights (1993) to classify human rights (see Tables 2 and 3).

Table 2. Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Types of Human Rights

Types of human rights

• human dignity                  • inborn human rights

• equality of man

• life, freedom and safety of body

Table 3. Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights and Types of Human Rights

Types of human rights

• human rights and the universality of basic freedoms

• national sovereignty • protection of human rights of peoples under foreign occupation

• inherited human rights

• universality and interrelatedness of human rights • need to consider national and regional characteristics, and various special features in history, culture and religion

With regard to the second approach, the writer provides the following table.

Table 4. Classification of Human Rights Concepts


• rights of man        • subjects of rights

• relationship between men

• human dignity

The contents of these tables are compared with the contents of Social Studies textbooks in order to give teachers an idea about how and what to teach. For example, the following description in the book gives an idea of this approach.

"HRE based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights"

(The following relationship is established on the basis of Tables 2 and 3.)

Principles of democracy as vehicles to guarantee basic rights

Unit II, "Democratic Politics and Civil Life," covers basic principles of democracy such as power distribution, constitutionalism, civil rights and the democratic political system including election and parties. Also covered are democratic participatory procedures and decision making as well as the powers of major government organizations. The unit aims to clarify the fundamentals and systems of democracy, the roles of members of a democratic society, and desirable civilian attitudes.

The unit does not directly mention human rights. However, the basics of democracy are described as ways and means to ensure the protection of basic rights. Therefore, there is room enough to incorporate human rights perspectives. For example, the unit touches on the following human rights: human dignity, freedom and equality; equality before law; a right to remedy human rights violations; freedom of expression and of opinion; right to participate in politics and vote by secret ballot; right to social protection. It also stresses that one should respect other people's freedoms and rights.

The following are categories of human rights:

  • Human dignity
  • Basic principles, right to happiness, respect for human rights, social protection law.
  • Appreciation of ways to practice human dignity in a society.
  • Debate on human dignity: human cloning.
  • Appreciation of social rights included in the constitution.
  • Recognition of the rights of disadvantaged people.

The writer does not forget to mention the demerits of the Social Studies textbook. The little mention of human rights in it does not seem to be the result of intentional attention to human rights. The textbook hardly mentions the rights of aborigines, the handicapped, children and minorities. Describing political and legal equality in general, it hardly mentions discrimination against women. Generally talking about labor conditions and social protection, it rarely addresses the rights of foreign workers.

Secondly, the textbook lacks concrete case studies of human rights abuse and violations in Korean society.

Chapter 6. Human Rights in School

The writer believes that the school environment, especially the teachers' role, greatly influences the formation of students' personality and values. He looks at cases of human rights issues in school or where teachers demonstrate prejudices or stereotypes about students, such as the following:

  • Classification of students into two stereotypes based on achievement: good and bad students.
  • Sexual discrimination.
  • Family environment that is not respectful of the students' rights.
  • Large school and class size.
  • Focus on a small number of high achievers and neglect of the rest of the students.
  • Overly strict discipline and rules about the students' appearances such as length of hair.
  • Poor school and classroom facilities.
  • Resolution of conflicts between students through non-peaceful means.
  • Teachers' heavy workload and dissatisfaction about social status and salary, which affect their relationship with students.
  • Little student autonomy.

The writer describes these as problems which need to be addressed in undertaking HRE at school and suggests ways of tackling them.

Part III: Lesson Plans

Examples of lesson plans appear as an annex to this paper.

Use of the book

The book was distributed to a number of educational institutions, teachers and individuals; Ministry of Education, municipal and provincial offices of education; libraries; UNESCO Associated Schools; and educational institutes. It was also given to teachers who participated in the Training Programme in Education for International Understanding in 1998.

However, because of limited funds, only 1,000 copies were printed, not even enough to supply all lower-secondary schools.

The book is used by future teachers at teacher education colleges and universities to prepare their lesson plans and to plan activities for students such as discussions, role play, etc.

A current problem in school is bullying. The book provides ways of dealing with it by teaching children cooperation, sensitivity to other people's feelings, peaceful resolution of conflicts, etc.

At the National Training Workshop for Moral Education Teachers in August 1998, the book was well received by about a hundred teacher participants, who tried out the activities suggested in the book after they returned to their schools. The book was featured in a five-page article in a popular local educational monthly, Uri Kyoyuk (Our Education), in November 1998. The project was also introduced at the National Conference on Human Rights held in Seoul, November 1998, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Paik Young-ae, who wrote the chapter on Moral Education, used the book in her classes. In November 1998, the Educational Broadcasting System filmed her using the book in classes and broadcast the program nationwide.

The author of the chapter on Social Studies brought the book to the National Seminar for Social Studies Teachers, meetings of the Social Studies Teachers in Pusan, etc. She won second prize at the National Contest for Teachers in Education through the Use of Newspapers, organized in 1998 by the Choongang Daily News, an influential national newspaper. Education through the use of newspapers is gaining popularity in Korea. The chapter of the Grade 9 Social Studies Textbook on the Rule of Law, which touches on human rights, is boring. But by leading students through the exciting activities described in the HRE book, which includes studying cases of human rights violations in daily life, teachers are able to interest students in the official textbooks.

Annex 1

Sample Lesson Plans

Moral Education

Title: Helen Keller (page 63, Grade 9 Moral Education Textbook)

Related rights: Rights of the handicapped

Theme: To think about Helen Keller's life and its meaning


to examine Helen Keller's life;
to examine Helen Keller's life in relation to the issue of the handicapped in Korea.

Methods: lecture, discussion, presentation and role play

Lesson plan

  • Introduction Teacher points out an example of a successful handicapped person in order to interest students in the issue of the handicapped.
  • Role play Class is arranged to role play the different stages of Helen Keller's life.
  • Discussion Students are divided into groups of four and discuss the theme "If I were Helen Keller, what would I do?" They can paint what they think.
  • Discussion Groups present what they have studied along the following issues:
  • meaning of the handicapped;status of employment of the handicapped;
  • common prejudices against the handicapped;
  • marriage of the handicapped;
  • facilities for them. Groups can use an overhead projector. After the presentation, students discuss solutions to handicapped people's problems. The discussion is recorded in the group discussion paper.


A handicapped student is invited to tell his/her experiences. Teacher summarizes the class discussion and mentions briefly a plan for the next class.

* The study of these issues is given in advance as a homework.

Annex 2

Worksheet 1

Source: Chosun Daily News

Title: Let's use mother's name too

Kim Park Jisoo, Choi Ha Eunhee, Lee Ko Yongsoo may soon use both their father's and mother's names.

The Korea Federation of Women's Organizations (KFWO) is planning an epoch-making event on International Women's Day: the Declaration by One Hundred People on "The Use of both Mother's and Father's Names." Promoted by big names in the women's movement -- Lee Hyojae, Co-chairwoman of KFWO, and Lee Mikyung, a Lawmaker of the Democratic Party, among others -- it aims to abolish the Man-Only Head-of-Household System.

KFWO argues that the Man-Only Head-of-Household System encourages parents' preference for boys, which has led to a large number of artificial abortions and the resulting serious imbalance between the numbers of boys and girls in Korea, which could be catastrophic in around 20 to 30 years.

The Declaration aims to create a social atmosphere favorable to the abolition of the Man-Only Head-of-Household System. Lawmaker Lee Mikyung says that she will have name cards made declaring her to be Lee Park Mikyung and that she will use that name in newspaper articles she writes in order to disseminate this idea.

The campaign for "The Use of both Mother's and Father's Names" is not new. Elementary school teachers Jeong Yonghoon (37) and Kim Jeongmi (33) won the first Equal Couple Prize, which was established by Women's News and the Ministry of Women in 1995. They named their seven-year-old daughter Jeong Seihae Kim and four-year-old son Jeong Kim Hanerl. Kim says that her husband first suggested using both their names for their children. "He says it bothers him that the woman endures all the pain of childbirth, but the man has all the privileges."

Sin Jeong Mora, who writes a provocative column on women's freedom posted on the Internet, has attracted the attention of many young people. She takes both her parents' names.

Annex 3

Worksheet 2

Bae Yongjoon marries Seokhee. Seokhee gives birth to two children: Baekkop and Baechoo. She retires from her job as a reporter. Baechoo enters elementary school and Baekkop kindergarten. Then Seokhee wants to fulfill herself by returning to work. Yongjoon and Seokhee agree that Yongjoon will do all the housework for six months while Seokhee prepares for a job examination. Yongjoon, who does not know how to cook, has the family dine out or orders out for food. Tired of the same food, the children cajole Yongjoon into cooking at home. Noodles and spaghetti, which he reluctantly cooks, are on the dining table for a week, which only increases his children’s boredom.

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