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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Backnumber

Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume VIII

Asia-Pacific Survey on Human Rights Education in Schools


In the second half of 2004, as we drew near to the end of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education, and as plans were being made for the First Phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-2007), a survey was conducted in the Asia-Pacific region to evaluate the effectiveness of the Decade and to canvass ideas for potential inclusion in the World Programme.

   Survey forms were sent to National Commissions for UNESCO, Education Ministries, UNESCO ASP schools and known non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in each UNESCO member state in the Asia-Pacific region. While only 16 responses were received, the comments were well considered and some were quite detailed.

Summary Recommendations

While the final report was 15 pages in length, here follows a summary of the key issues that were raised and the summary recommendations for the World Programme on Human Rights Education (2005-2007).

Objectives, Definition and Principles for Human Rights Education

The nature of human rights education needs to be very clearly defined, including the specific purpose of education for human rights, to ensure consistency in implementation.
   The definition should not only clarify the content to be covered by human rights education, allowing for contextual differences of emphasis due to local issues, but also the intended social and behavioral outcomes, to enable meaningful evaluation and measurement of progress. By defining the desired outcomes, educators are then challenged to develop appropriate teaching/learning processes and methodologies which will deliver those outcomes, and to provide appropriate learning environments which foster respect for human rights.
   This would also require teachers to be appropriately and professionally trained, both preservice and in-service, to recognize and be aware of human rights issues, have the necessary knowledge, understanding and skills to teach and to role model human rights education, and to have the capacity to deliver such outcomes.
   The principles should not however limit themselves to the nature of human rights education itself, but should also refer to the observance of human rights in all school-based contexts, to effectively role model human rights in action. This would require schools, and indeed education systems, to develop relevant guidelines and procedures for the observance of human rights at all times by all school staff, students and also parents involved in school-based activities.
   These principles should also emphasize the importance of partnerships, parental, community and organizational involvement and shared responsibility for all aspects of human rights education.

Implementation strategy

a. Legislation and policy
   Survey results show that human rights education is more effective when legislation and policies are put in place which mandate human rights education in schools, integrated across the curriculum, using methodologies and materials appropriate to the developmental stages of children.
   Such legislation should also specify the roles and responsibilities of various major stakeholders in implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
   All aspects of human rights need to be appropriately and comprehensively integrated into the policies, procedures and guidelines of all schools.

b. Policy implementation
   There needs to be joint monitoring by the relevant government authority and the national human rights body, to ensure that human rights education policies are being implemented effectively. NGOs and educational institutions should be consulted on issues of human rights education evaluation and monitoring.

c. Teaching and learning
   All aspects of human rights need to be appropriately and comprehensively integrated across the content of all school curriculums at all levels.
   More flexible, integrated curriculums should be developed adapted to children's developmental needs, appropriate to different learning styles, culture and language.
   Suitable strategies need to be developed for the effective integration of human rights education across school curriculums, to ensure the uniform perception of the process of the integration of human rights education at different levels of school education.
   Educational systems should be required to conduct a comprehensive content analysis of school syllabuses, textbooks and other instructional materials (both print and audio-visual) and to set aside hours for substantial human rights education lessons.

   Curriculum content
   Human rights education programs should promote intercultural, inter-religious and intergenerational dialogue, healthy and peaceful life styles, human dignity and harmony with the surrounding natural environment and emphasize the ethical and moral dimensions of human rights, in addition to covering information about human rights instruments and human rights issues.
   The content of human rights education should be oriented to the level of understanding of children and to be made attractive, user friendly and culturally appropriate (for example, human rights issues in folk tales or cartoons).
   It may be necessary to simplify some sensitive human rights topics and make them appropriate to the age and level, especially for younger children. Curriculums therefore need to be developed according to the different developmental stages of children, taking linkages with a range of subjects into consideration.

   Co-curricular/extra curricular activities
   The combined use of both curricular and co-curricular strategies is recommended, as the co-curricular approaches reinforce awareness among learners and promote positive attitudes and promote a school environment sensitive to human rights concerns.
   These should be accompanied by community-based training programs on human rights education, focused on parents associations, to raise awareness of parents and communities. The community-based human rights education programs should be solution-oriented while involving parents, the community, NGOs and other organizations, encouraging student encounters with various people.

   There needs to be research and collation of information and research about effective practices and materials for human rights education, for the development of appropriate teaching materials.
   Textbooks and resources need to be more flexible and adapted to the diversity of children's needs.
   Teaching resources also need to be culturally and developmentally appropriate and in the language of the country. The translation, cultural adaptation and widespread distribution of UNESCO and other human rights education publications and teaching resources are needed. Resources need to be distributed widely so that they reach the teachers who need to use them and are effectively used.
   Teaching exemplars should be developed as resources for integrating human rights concepts in teaching.
   In particular, resources for integrating human rights across diverse curriculum subjects are required, accompanied by training for teachers and Principals in their use.
   Resources should include user-friendly training manuals, ideas for good practice, teaching exemplars and materials (printed, audio-visual and digital) in national languages, localized in content and adapted to each context.

   Teaching methods
   The teaching/learning processes or methodologies that have been found to be most effective are overwhelmingly those that are primarily experiential, participative and interactive, with concepts being applied to everyday life, emphasizing the ethical aspects of human rights.
   It is generally acknowledged that while accurate information and knowledge are vitally important, alone they do not change attitudes and behaviors. The development of the intellect must be combined with the active engagement of the physical in constructive action, accompanied by an opening of the heart to compassion and understanding.
   It is suggested that practical teaching-learning methodologies need to be developed which encompass the intellectual, physical and affective aspects of learning, for human rights education to be integrated across the school curriculum effectively, leading to practical action and behavioral change.
   Teaching methods should move towards being student-centered, holistic and integrated, using comprehensive and varied teaching/learning methodologies adapted to developmental stages and learning styles. A holistic human rights education pedagogy engages the whole child in learning - the intellect, the emotions, the ethical/moral dimension and the physical body, directed towards positive attitudes and practical action.
   Further research is needed for the development of more effective teaching methods and pedagogy for human rights education, appropriate to different developmental stages.

   Evaluation and assessment
   Follow up and monitoring of the integration of human rights concepts across the curriculum and in classroom teaching should be included in Plans of Action.
   Evaluation of human rights education programs need to be open and inclusive.
   Each school should evaluate itself, involving parents and local communities in the evaluation.
   It is also necessary to explore ways of reviewing and assessing the effectiveness of the learning of human rights by students, and not merely in theoretical terms but by examining attitudes and behaviors.

   A large-scale research project is needed for the development of human rights education curriculums and teaching/learning approaches, appropriate to the developmental stages of children.
   Research is also recommended to evaluate the effectiveness of past and current and effective human rights education practices and initiatives to identify which are most effective in various contexts.

d. Training of teachers and other educational personnel (pre-service teacher training, in-service teacher training)
   A strong emphasis on teacher training both in-service and pre-service is considered to be of the highest priority.
   Training programs and training for human rights education are urgently needed for teachers, support staff and parents, both formal and non-formal, including the fostering of study circles.
   Advocacy programs are also needed among teachers and the community for creating appropriate appreciation for human rights education in schools. It is important to develop a common understanding among all teachers of the value and importance of implementing human rights education in all educational activities, and specific measures for implementation.
   Human rights education should be incorporated as an essential and mandatory subject within teacher training programs. Professional and compulsory, experience-based, in-service and pre-service human rights education training is needed in rights-based education, to improve teachers' awareness/recognition of human rights issues/causes, knowledge, attitudes, leadership and skills required for human rights teaching and for developing proactive attitudes in children.
   It is also important to include criteria for assessing the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for teaching human rights education in approving teacher licenses and for employing teachers.
   Training is particularly required for human rights education specialists and teachers (in various fields of competence) in the process of integrating human rights education across the curriculum.
   Teacher training should be designed to help teachers respect each other and their students, to build good relations and open communication, to be able to role model human rights in action and to take a leadership role in human rights education.
   Ongoing enrichment in-service training is also required for existing teachers to continually improve human rights education skills and awareness.

e. Learning environment (school ethos, discipline, school community-links, stakeholders participation)
   It is important to establish learning environments where human rights are respected by both teachers and students. The educational environment should be reformed in a more humanistic and student centered way to promote loving, caring and supportive learning environments that role model human rights and respect in action. The educational environment should be oriented towards social change reflecting equality, equity and human dignity.
   Human rights education in schools also requires leadership, shared responsibility and evaluation.
   It is necessary to develop a best practice check list for school environments sensitive to human rights education.
   A dedicated person with human rights responsibilities should be appointed by education systems and also within schools, perhaps also with a social welfare role to ensure human rights are being observed in the school.
   Partnerships with parents, the community, NGOs, educational organizations and other institutions are considered essential to successful human rights education programs in schools.

Partnerships and Coordination

There need to be three main levels of partnerships as follows:
  1. High level government partnerships - 22 the most common being those between the Education Ministry and the Human Rights Commission, with shared funding arrangements seen as being appropriate.
  2. Partnerships between the government and international organizations such as Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNESCO, UNICEF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), etc.
  3. School or community-based partnerships with NGOs and other educational institutions.
   Partnerships are considered most effective when government agencies are mandated to implement human rights education in schools and agree to share the role collaboratively with appropriate human rights education institutions and NGOs to monitor, follow up and report on progress. Partnerships between key national players are considered vital, especially between National Human Rights Commissions and NGOs, working together to advocate and implement human rights education in schools.
   It is important to develop consistent human rights education programs through good communication and coordination among different levels of school systems and through strong partnerships among all those responsible.
   Partnerships are also considered to be effective when they bring together a wide pool of expertise, such as representatives from local communities, religious leaders, NGOs, experts and private sector specialists, funding sources and resources. These can deliver concrete outputs such as teacher training courses, innovative school programs, translated documents and appropriate human rights education books, manuals and other teaching resources.
   Partnerships with local and international organizations are also very useful, especially for jointly conducting human rights education training courses and informal, communitybased educational activities. Accompanying community education is considered necessary for school-based human rights education to be most effective. Partnerships between schools, NGOs, parent groups and the community are essential to provide students with opportunities to interact with a wide range of people and to provide parents and local residents with information about human rights education.
   Advocating human rights issues to the media is also important for reaching the community more effectively. Continuous advocacy and interactive activities for curriculum framers, material developers, teacher educators and teachers are also very important.
   More avenues should be created for communicating what countries are doing, sharing information and resources, to continually add to the collective knowledge and experience of effective human rights education in practice.
   In closing, the full text and results of the Survey Report were submitted to UNESCO and were taken into account when the Draft of the First Phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-2007) was being developed.
   Thank you to all those dedicated educators who took the time to respond so thoughtfully. I would particularly like to thank Jeff Plantilla from the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center (Osaka, Japan) for his excellent support in sharing his networks and contacts with me to ensure that the survey reached the widest possible audience.

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