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Classroom in Zambia (source: Florence Devouard)When considering a human rights-based approach to schooling, it is very important to recognise that the implementation of such an approach will vary depending upon the context of the school environment. There is no "one-size-fits-all" HRBA method. Schools will need to be mindful of the social, political, national, and cultural particularities of the communities they serve. Understanding these characteristics may result in the identification of needs and interests that can lead to the development of strategies that are likely to be more effective.

Learning Human Rights

Schools must first settle on an approach to human rights learning within the school, considering both formal and non-formal avenues. How much will human rights education be constituted by attention to human rights values as opposed to the legal framework of human rights? How will these themes be transmitted to students, through subject-area teaching or through extracurricular activities? How will human rights learning be promoted in a systematic and age-sensitive manner throughout the school? How can human rights education be carried out so that students learn and cherish human rights and are motivated to promote them in their lives and in the lives of others?

HRE can be defined as education, training and information aimed at building a universal culture of human rights. A comprehensive education in human rights not only provides knowledge about human rights and the mechanisms that protect them, but also imparts the skills needed to promote, defend and apply human rights in daily life.

You might consider some of the different international perspectives on human rights education (HRE) in general. You will find that there are differing approaches to HRE. To gain a better understanding of these different perspectives, see, "International Perspectives of Human Rights Education (HRE)" in the Journal of Social Science Education (JSSE) 1-2006, edited by Peter Fritzsche and Felisa Tibbitts.

You might decide that you want to develop a theme-based school. For great tips on creating a theme-based school, see Karen Epper Hoffman's article, How to build a theme based curriculum. Chapter 7 of "Education through theme-based learning communities" in Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students' Motivation to Learn (2003) may prove to be helpful, though the majority of the book is focused on occupation-based theme schools.

School Development and Management

HREA recognises that every institution bears its own set of circumstances that will require adaptation in the implementation of a human rights-based approach to schooling. At first glance, drafting new policies that take human rights into account may seem like a daunting task. There are, however, institutions that have gone through this process before and have printed very helpful policy guidelines that can be adapted to fit a range of needs. In addition to policy challenges, new HRBA institutions will also have to find ways to integrate human rights practices into the school and community culture. Likewise, HRBA institutions must be sensitive to local cultural needs and adapt school policies accordingly.

Creating HRBA School and Community Policies

Instituting a human rights-based approach to education necessitates taking a fresh look at school policy and assessing where human rights can play a larger role. It is important to remember that a true human rights-based approach infuses human rights principles into all levels of the school system, allowing them to influence staff relations, hiring policies, curriculum, disciplinary procedures, etc. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission provides a refreshingly pragmatic and user-friendly guide on HRBA school policy in A Guide for School Management to the Human Rights ACT 1998.


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Introduction to Human Rights Education

The Right to Education

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