The words "human rights education" became more widely used in Asia-Pacific only during the decade of the 1990s. But its practice had started in many Asian and Pacific countries decades before the words "human rights education" became popular. Educational initiatives that relate to human rights have already existed in the 1950s.

One can easily cite as an example the DOWA education in Japan as essentially human rights education and yet called by a different name. It started in early 1950s. DOWA education promotes basic human rights concepts such as equality and harmonious co-existence and therefore falls under human rights education. As explained in one publication:

Dowa education can be divided into 'Dowa education as human rights' and 'Dowa education about human rights.' The former deals with issues of school enrollment, school achievement and educational opportunities in general, while the latter is concerned with school curriculum and teaching efforts to change prejudiced views and to enhance human rights awareness. [i]

In other Asian countries, human rights education also takes different names. It can be democracy education, peace education, legal literacy, paralegal training, workers' rights education, consumers' rights education, and even health education. In the formal education system, human rights can be taken up as part of civic education, values education, or social studies (though they may have the limitation of presenting only certain aspects of human rights rather than their integrated whole, and duties of citizens may be overly emphasized to the detriment of certain rights and freedoms).

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