What We're About

At a glance

Human Rights in Education | Mana Tika Tangata, is an open collaborative initiative for better education and citizenship - through the development of schools and early childhood education centres as learning communities that explore, promote, and live human rights and responsibilities.

‘Human rights’ are the cross-culturally negotiated and internationally agreed entitlements that everyone has because they are human beings. They sum up basic aspirations for a decent life, and have been codified in international law.

Early childhood centres and schools are - whether they realise it or not - in the human rights business.

  • They exist to fulfil the human right of every young person to an education directed at developing their human potential and being effective citizens - one that helps realise human rights, such as the rights to work, an adequate standard of living, health, participation in public life....
  • The community expects centres and schools to respect the human rights of young people, such as rights to dignity, identity, safety, fair treatment, expression and participation - and, of course, good education.
  • The community also expects them to help ensure that young people learn to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of others.

Human Rights in Education is an initiative for human rights-based education -- recognising human rights as a global taonga (cultural treasure), a normative guide for learning communities, and an important lens and effective tool for professional practice.

Although the initiative was first discussed in New Zealand in 2002-4, Human Rights in Education is able to draw on evidence from Canada (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) and England that if schools recognise their role in the realisation of human rights, and are explicit in teaching, modelling and exploring human rights - and the responsibilities that go with them - children will experience higher self-esteem, treat others with greater respect, contribute to a better learning environment in the school, demonstrate responsible citizenship behaviour, and achieve better educational outcomes generally.

These outcomes address some of the most pressing concerns we have in New Zealand for our young people. In the English county of Hampshire the approach has been credited with producing the following results in primary and secondary schools:
  • a decline in bullying;
  • children’s approach to resolving conflict with each other and adults is less adversarial;
  • they show a greater concern for themselves, each other, and children in other parts of the world;
  • their language becomes more sophisticated and they are more likely to use higher order thinking;
  • they are more likely to attend school;
  • they are less likely to be excluded.

Teachers report that:

  • there is less low level disruption, they have more time to teach, achieve good progress and higher standards for children;
  • they enjoy their jobs more and many are reminded about why they came into the job.

The Human Rights in Education initiative aims to fulfil the human rights objectives of New Zealand’s early childhood and school curricula, including the New Zealand Curriculum requirement that

“respect for themselves, others, and human rights” be "evident in the school’s philosophy, structures, curriculum, classrooms, and relationships”.

Human Rights in Education is not another programme to be fitted into an already crowded overall programme. It represents a general whole-centre/school approach to teaching, school organisation and learning, bringing coherence to many things centres/schools do already. It does mean learning a basic framework, but teachers have found that applying the framework improves the learning environment, reduces stress, and provides a toolkit that can readily be applied by teachers and young people in different situations.

Last Updated (Thursday, 11 December 2014 08:42)