What is Human Rights Education?

Posted by under Human Rights Education on 18 September 2005

"Everyone has the right to education... Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace." (art.26 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

What is Human Rights Education?

Included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 26.2), reiterated in other major international instruments, human rights education is an integral part of the right to education and has gained of late larger recognition as a human right in itself. The knowledge of the rights and freedoms, of oneself as much as of the others, is considered as a fundamental tool to guarantee the respect of all rights for each and every person.

The concept underpinning human rights education is that education should not only aim at forming trained, professional workers, but also at contributing to the development of individuals who possess the skills to interact in a society. Human rights education aim at providing pupils and students with the abilities to accompany and produce societal changes. Education is seen as a way to empower people, improve their quality of life and increase their capacity to participate in the decision-making processes leading to social, cultural and economic policies.

Human rights education cannot be reduced to the simple introduction of human rights content in already overburdened curricula. It brings about a profound reform of education, which touches upon curriculum in-service and pre-service training, textbooks, methodology, classroom management, and the organisation of the education system at all levels.

Human rights education implies the learning and practice of human rights. A holistic approach to human rights education means that human rights are implemented at all levels of the education system, and that they are taught through both content transmission and experiences.

Therefore, human rights education should not only be theoretical but should also provide opportunities for young people to develop and practice the skills to respect human rights and citizenship through "school life", i.e. all aspects of school as a living, social environment with its collective rules, interpersonal conflicts, time and opportunities for co-operation, and through opportunities for spontaneous initiatives by the pupils outside the actual teaching activities.

Sources and Relevant Links:

United Nations: Cyberschoolbus on human rights

UNICEF Voices of Youth and Other Pages for the Young"> Voices of Youth, UNICEF's terrific online global-issues discussion area, has a board just for teachers and suggestions for classroom use. There are quizzes and multimedia presentations for classroom use here, too.

United Nations What's going on?

UNHCR> The UN's High Commissioner on Refugees"> has a special area just for those interested in teaching about refugee issues at the primary, intermediate, and secondary levels. Good for manydifferent subjects.

UNEPThe UN Environment Programme's "Children and Youth Programme"> helps young people concerned about the environment do something good. It provides materials, builds networks, find listservs, and arrange conferences too. They do many art competitions. Be sure to look at "Pachamama", their beautiful educational site created for GEO 2000.

UNESCO UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a useful collection of online educational program links: school networks, primary, secondary, and higher education, lifelong learning, and much more.

UNHCHR The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Website"> has an enormous "Database for Human Rights Education". This database, in English, Spanish, and French, can be searched by geographical focus, target groups, substantive focus, country/region, type and language. Includes institutions, programmes, materials, and scholarships.

UN United Nation related Teaching Materials"> A list of K-12 printed resources that can be ordered through the UN Publications Website.

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