Fundamentals of Human Rights EducationHuman rights may be generally defined as those rights which areinherent in our nature and without which we cannot live as humanbeings.Human rights and fundamental freedoms are based onhumankind’s increasing demand for a life in which the inherentdignity and worth of each human being are accorded respect andprotection.Their denial is not only an individual and personal tragedy but alsocreates conditions of social and political unrest, sowing the seedsof violence and conflict within and between societies and nations.
Chart of the main United Nations Human Rights Instruments
Promoting human rightsOne of the most powerful activity to promote human rights is humanrights education, since it should constitute a comprehensive life-long process by which people at all levels in development and in alllayers of society learn respect for the dignity of others and the meansand methods of ensuring that respect in all societies.
Promoting human rightsSince the adoption of the Universal Declaration, the GeneralAssembly has called on Member States and all segments of societyto disseminate this fundamental document and educate people aboutits content, affirming the importance of education, training and publicinformation.
Promoting human rightsSecretary-General Kofi Annanstated on the fiftieth anniversary ofthe Declaration that “Human rights isforeign to no country and native toall nations” and that “without humanrights no peace or prosperity willever last”.At the World Conference on HumanRights held in Vienna, Austria, in1993, 171 countries reiterated theuniversality, indivisibility andinterdependence of human rights,and reaffirmed their commitment tothe Universal Declaration of HumanRights.
Human rights education definition Human rights education may be defined as “training, dissemination and information efforts” aimed at:• Strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;• Develop fully human personality and the sense of its dignity;• Promote understanding, tolerance, gender equality and friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups;• Enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society;• Further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Content for human rights educationThe core content of human rights education in schools is theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention onthe Rights of the Child. These documents provide principles andideas with which to assess experience and build a school culturethat values human rights.The rights they embody are universal, meaning that all humanbeings are entitled to them, on an equal basis and that they areindivisible, meaning there is no hierarchy of rights.
Content for human rights educationHowever, documents and history alonecannot bring human rights to life in theclassroom. Nor does working on facts”and fundamentals, even the best-selectedones, because they are not enough tobuild a culture of human rights.Therefore, students need to approachthese information from the perspectiveof their real-life experience and grapplewith them in terms of their ownunderstanding of justice, freedom andequity.
Teaching human rights: when action speaks louder than wordsTeaching on human rights createsopportunities for students andteachers to examine basic elementssuch as life, justice, freedom, equalityand the destructive character ofdeprivation, suffering and pain, andthen to use them to work out what theytruly think and feel about a wide rangeof real-world issues.
Teaching human rights: when action speaks louder than wordsFirst, for the basic principles of a human rights culture to survive,people must continue to see a point in defending them.Second, the focus of human rights education is not just outward onexternal issues and events but also inward on personal values,attitudes and behaviour, using participatory and dynamicmethodologies that emphasize independent research, analysis andcritical thinking.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationThe techniques suggested for human rights education illustrate howteachers can:•engage students’ empathy and moral imagination;•challenge their assumptions;•integrate concepts like human dignity and equality into theireveryday experience of people, power and responsibility.These techniques have proved especially appropriate for humanrights education because they encourage critical thinking, bothcognitive and affective learning, respect for differences ofexperience and opinion, and active engagement of all participants inongoing learning.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationBrainstormingCase studiesCreative expressionDiscussionField trips/Community visitsInterviewsResearch projectsRole-plays/SimulationsVisual aids
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationBrainstormingThis technique can be used to seek solutions to problems that are boththeoretical and practical. It requires a problem to be analysed and thensolutions to be developed. Brainstorming encourages a high degree ofparticipation, and it stimulates those involved to maximum creativity.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationCase studiesStudents in small groups workwith real or fictional cases thatrequire them to apply human rightsstandards. This method encouragesanalysis, problem-solving andplanning skills, as well as cooperationand team building.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationCreative expressionThe arts can help to make concepts more concrete, personalizeabstractions and affect attitudes by involving emotional as well asintellectual responses to human rights.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationDiscussionThis technique stimulates meaningful discussion in pairs, small groups orthe whole class, also to create an environment of trust and respect betweenstudents.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationField trips/Community visitsStudents benefit from the extensionof school into the community,learning from places where humanrights issues develop and payingcritical attention for a subsequentdiscussion or written reflectionfollowing the visit.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationInterviewsInterviews provide direct learning and personalize issues andhistory. Such oral histories can contribute to documenting andunderstanding human right issues in the home community.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationResearch projectsWhether individual or group projects, research develops skills forindependent thinking and data analysis and deepens understanding ofthe complexity of human rights issues.
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationRole-plays/Simulations INTERPERSONAL SKILLSSimulations have GROUP COMMUNICATION DECISIONparticular value for MAKING SKILLSsensitizing studentsto the feelings and ROLE PLAYSperspectives of othergroups and to theimportance of certainissues. DEVELOPING CONFLICT INSIGHTS RESOLUTION
Pedagogical techniques for human rights educationVisual aidsLearning can be enhanced by the use of blackboards, overheadtransparencies, posters, displayed objects, flip charts, photographs, slides,videos and films. Visual aids should never substitute for engageddiscussion and direct student participation.