In addition to meeting legal obligations of the Convention to spread awareness of children’s rights to children and to adults, teaching children about their rights has the benefits of improving their awareness of rights in general, making them more respectful of other people’s rights, and empowering them to take action in support of other people’s rights. Early programs to teach children about their rights, in Belgium, Canada, England and New Zealand have provided evidence of this. Children’s human rights education refers to education and educational practices in schools and educational institutions that are consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children’s rights education is education where the rights labor education of children of younger preschool age the child, as described in the Convention, is taught and practiced in individual classrooms.
But in its most developed form, children’s rights are taught and practiced in a systematic and comprehensive way across grade levels, across the school, and across school districts. With full-blown children’s rights education, children’s rights are not simply an addition to a particular subject or classroom. Fully developed children’s rights education means that all members of the school community receive education on the rights of the child. The Convention serves as a values framework for the life and functioning of the school or educational institution and for efforts to promote a more positive school climate and school culture for learning. A core belief in children’s rights education is that when children learn about their own basic human rights, this learning serves as an important foundation for their understanding and support of human rights more broadly. The Convention on the Rights of the child has important implications for the education of children.
Approved by the United Nations in 1989, the Convention is the most widely ratified and most quickly ratified country in world history. In the Convention are numerous articles that deal with education and with children’s rights education. Eugeen Verhellen has divided the Convention’s provisions on education along three tracks. This third track of education spells an obligation by countries and education authorities to provide for children’s human rights education. Article 29 of the Convention requires that ‘the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This presumes knowledge and understanding of rights. Mindful of this duty of disseminating knowledge and recognizing its importance, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention, has repeatedly urged countries to incorporate children’s rights into the school curricula and ensure that children know and understand their rights on a systematic and comprehensive basis.
Children’s rights education in schools has value because it fulfills the obligations of countries to respect the rights of the child and implement the provisions of the Convention. But beyond the fulfillment of a legal obligation, children’s rights education has value for children. Felisa Tibbitts has suggested that child rights education can be expected to affect learners in three ways. Research by Katherine Covell and R. Since the approval by the United Nations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, various efforts have been made to provide children’s rights education in schools. Initiatives have been undertaken mainly at the level of individual classrooms and schools. Among the earliest initiatives was one in a primary school in Bruges, Belgium.
This was a comprehensive child rights education project that was introduced in the early 1990s at De Vrijdagmarkt Primary School. Further examples of early initiatives were in classrooms in Cape Breton, Canada, in the late 1990s. Writings about the initiative in Cape Breton schools inspired a major initiative in Hampshire County, England, called Rights, Respect and Responsibility or the RRR initiative. It is among the best known and most promising models of children’s human rights education to date. After study leave in Cape Breton, a group of Hampshire administrators and teachers decided to pilot test and then launch their own version of child rights education in Hampshire.
After successful pilot testing in 2002, they officially launched RRR in 2004. The overall objective of RRR was to improve educational outcomes for children by transforming school cultures, building a shared values framework based on the Convention, and promoting educational practices consistent with the Convention. Knowledge and understanding of rights, respect, and social responsibility were to provide the values framework for all school policies, classroom practices, codes of conduct, mission statements, school regulations, and school curricula. Initiatives in Cape Breton and Hampshire have influenced developments in other schools, school districts, and even countries. Among the more ambitious developments have been seen in New Zealand where efforts are underway to make children’s human rights education a nationwide initiative. The context for the initiative is favorable. Like elsewhere, educators and human rights advocates in New Zealand had been concerned with poor achievement levels, bullying, and violent behaviors that are observed among a significant minority of children in schools.
And also like elsewhere, teachers and administrators have been frustrated by the range of difficult demands in schools, the fragmentation of efforts to address common problems, and the disappointing results of those efforts. To achieve this goal, HRiE has been following the Hampshire model in using children’s rights as an overarching and integrating values framework for teaching, learning, and school management and organization. Children’s rights education initiatives also have occurred at the preschool level. For example, Canadian educators Pamela Wallberg and Maria Kahn introduced rights education to an early childhood program group of 3 and 4 year-old children in British Columbia over a three-month period. The earliest reported evaluation of a child rights education project was that of the initiative in Bruges. Involving children ages 3 to 12, the primary focus of the evaluation was on the students’ social behavior.