EDUCATING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE

QUESTIONNAIRE RESULTS

Anne M. Halvorsen, Teachers for Peace, Norway

 


The Congress was an opportunity to share experiences and views on the content and implementation of human rights in the schools. The registration packets contained a questionnaire on human rights education. 21 participants anwered the questionnaire in spite of all the other activities during the congress. The questionnaire is reproduced on the following pages along with a short summary, and some reflections based upon the answers. I do not consider them to be representative of all the congress participants, due to the small number of forms received. But I hope discussions on the implementation of human rights in the schools will continue in the different countries and schools represented. Material useful to me as a teacher will also be mentioned.

1. A Broad or Narrow Concept of Human Rights Education?

Three formulations were taken from international documents on human rights education (In short HRE). In addition an open possibility to make your own formulation was given:

a. Peace, disarmament, development and human rights are interrelated isssues. A comprehensive approach to teaching for human rights is teaching for peace and disarmament, as well as for development and environmental awareness.

b. The objective of human rights education is to inform people everywhere of their basic rights and of existing mechanisms for protecting those rights.

c. Teaching for human rights is aimed to foster awareness and knowledge as well as feelings of confidence and social tolerance. Human rights teaching requires more than simply intellectual effort.

"Can I teach human rights without even mentioning the International Bill of Human Rights?". The question was raised in a session for teachers about "how to implement human rights in schools" (Geneva, 1989). It reflects the ongoing debate on methods in HRE: Teaching for and teaching about human rights? I prefer to use the term a "broad or narrow" task for the teacher. Formulation c) represents a broad understanding and b) a narrow. Among the 21 forms returned, 14 (67%) choose c), the widest explanation, as their understanding of HRE. 14 participants ranked a) as their third choice (67%). Three (14%) considered b) to be the best formulation. In the open answer a word like "tolerance" and similar concepts were mentioned in more than half of the forms recieved.

2. Supporting Human Rights Education Through Curricula Plans

Ten participants answering the form, knew about formulations relating to human rights in the curricula plans. Mostly human rights are referred to in the general guidelines, not in specific subjects. Social science at secondary level, and international law studies at university level are exceptions to this. Is there a need for making human rights visible in educational plans? Can human rights in curricula legitimize the work of teachers? Most European countries have committed themselves to implementing human rights in their legislation (standards) and educational system. In my opinion, we - the educators, should face the politicians and administrators with what the nation has signed and is obliged to implement. We should demand that they take the consequences of this and visualize human rights through curricula plans. At the same time educators will have to make a compromise and accept a more narrow HRE concept than they use in practical school work. I think HRE has suffered because the language or pedagogical terms used by teachers and curricula makers (politicians and administrators) are different. It will be necessary to create a bridge here in most countries to implement HRE.

3. The challenge to lIuman Rights Education at the Classroom Level

The following sentences are representative ofthe answers: .

* To create tolerance towards all kinds of diversity.

* Peaceful conflict resolution.

* Create classroom climate with respect for others.

* To create daily life models of true democracy in our classroom and the school as a whole.

* To take each pupil "seriously" as a teacher and in the schooling system.

* To see possibilities of integration of human rights in all subjects.

* To see the challenges in one's own country.

* To find active methods in the learning process.

* To be able to show that pupils can make changes on a local basis.

* To create belief in changes among the pupils.

My conclusion is that the answers show that HRE is a value-teaching task, it is an ongoing process and requires a holistic view of the pupil. HRE methods are connected with "a learning by doing" attitude or "active learning" view. The role of the teacher is crucial and mentioned several times among the answers. The answers in the 21 forms I recieved are very much inline with UNESCO's literature on the subject. UNESCO plays a special role in the area of HRE. The "Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy" was endorsed by the General Conference of UNESCO at its twenty-eighth session in Paris, November 1995.

Finally I want to share a small poem which tells me, the teacher, what I consider to be the main challenge for HRE in my daily work:

A bird does not sing because he/she has an answer.

He/she sings because he/she has a SONG.

After Joan Anglund

For further information the following sources are recommended:

"ABC teaching human rights - practical activities for primary and secondary school"~ United Nations, New York, 1989

"Delaration of principles on tolerance", UNESCO, November 1995, give the teacher an overview of references.

http://unesco.uneb/educprog/asp/publications htn. gives an overview of publications available free of charge.

 

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