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HRiE forum: General Forum

This is the key collaboration space for Human Rights in Education. Here you will find colleagues’ ideas and experiences in implementing human rights-based education.

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  • Questions about human rights-based education
  • Posted: 07-11-2010 12:19:37 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Have any questions about human rights-based education? Ask them here, and we'll ttry to answer them.
  • Questions about human rights
  • Posted: 07-11-2010 12:17:54 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Have any questions about human rights? We'll try to answer them here.
  • Cultural rights?
  • Posted: 12-05-2011 15:22:27 NZST By Ced Simpson
  • Posted: 02-04-2011 10:03:36 NZDT By Thomas

    At my College the Principal allowed the introduction of a new school Haka. This one was written by the Maori teacher and she wouldn't give a translation. One of the teachers asked for a translation. She refused at first but after this teacher insisted on one she reluctantly gave in. She did but said not to give the translation to the students. This teacher stood up to be counted and insisted this is not right, and all students and their parents should know what is in a haka due to its spiritual and cultural content.
    I was shocked! This Haka talks about paying homage to the Maori gods, which is the reason she wanted it hidden. A number of students said they did not want to be involved because they found it offensive. I took this haka to my Kaumatua (I go to a bilingual Maori church) and he was adamant that Christians should not be saying this haka. There were also atheists who didn't want to be involved for it clashed with their ethics and cultural beliefs.
    We students who stood up and said they didn't want to be involved (the Principal said it was opt in) were punished being made to pick up rubbish. We were punished for exercising our human rights.
    The students and parents still have not been given the translation.
    What are our rights here? What is the legal aspects (laws) on this?
    Do we have to do be involved in things that are highly spiritual and culturally important for one section of society?

  • Re: Cultural rights?
  • Posted: 09-06-2011 14:23:55 NZST By Ced Simpson
  • From Peg Lockyer, Director RIPPLE Education Ltd:

    1. If the school is secular in nature there should be a discussion around the appropriateness of a Haka having a religious meaning regardless of which religion or God is being worshipped.

    2. More importantly though, all students involved have the right to have their views heard and before the Haka was made it would have been good practice to operate a “student voice forum” so students could have their say in the Haka production. This would have enabled the Atheists, the Christians and other groups to learn from each other and create a collaborative project that values each groups belief systems.

    One way this could have been done is to create a Haka that brings together the values of the students involved and incorporates these with the school’s core values. This way the haka means something for the whole school community. The student voice forum could extend beyond the Kapa Haka group and ask other students in the school for their input. That would result in learning for all. Imagine the merging of the cultures and the learning and understanding that would result from such an exercise. We are a diverse community and if all cultures had a chance to learn from one another, discrimination would in my view disappear.

    3. In this case, where there is no transparency in terms of the haka’s intent / translation the students should not be punished for refusing to do as requested in their duties to the school. This punishment is a breach of their right to freedom of speech and freedom to religion.

    However, if there had been transparency in the beginning and the students joined the Kapa haka group knowing they would be expected to perform the Haka - then to refuse is a breakdown of school rules and a breach of general ‘public order” within the school and the school Principal has a right to place the students under some form of consequence.
  • Re: Cultural rights?
  • Posted: 21-06-2011 15:10:30 NZST By Ced Simpson
  • From Lesley Ashworth-Lawson, Human Rights Commission Mediator:
    Kia ora, This is a tricky one and as far as the NZ Human Rights Act goes, there are no clear answers as to whether the actions of the teacher in requiring all students to perform the haka is discriminatory. It probably would be something the Commission would be able to progress via its mediation service if the student wanted to make a complaint about the teacher allegedly failing to reasonably accomodate the religious diversity of her students. What is 'reasonable accomodation' in any given situation is a grey area and depends on the facts of each individual case.

    In similar situations where different religions and cultural perspectives are involved, the Commission has offered its mediation services to the parties, and we would be happy to do so in this case. The Commission would be prepared to facilitate a mediation meeting/ conversation with the parties to encourage understanding and resolution of the issue. We have a variety of people in the Commission who bring different perspectives and in particular the Commission's Ahi Kaa team may be able to assist in this process.

    See our website for further information about our mediation services.

    Lesley Ashworth-Lawson
    Mediator, Human Rights Commission
  • * How are things going? What are your 2010 plans?
  • Posted: 13-02-2010 14:37:15 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Motueka High School
  • Posted: 13-02-2010 14:39:25 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • I feel that the Human Rights approach has received widespread support at Motueka High School this year and is becoming embedded in the school culture. Our Senior Class room Teacher, James Monaghan has been driving it this year and has been well supported by a large group of students from year 9 to year 13. We have adapted our discipline system around rights and responsibilities and James is organizing fortnightly focus resources for form teachers that are helping to sustain teachers. Topics are as diverse as “Stop the Drop” asking everyone to think about the disposal of chewing gum and litter to bullying. I think there is general buy in to the Human Rights way of thinking.

    Form classes have signed up to their charters and these are published around the school.

    We have changed our detention system to one that requires the offender to write a letter of apology to those whose rights have been affected. They do this with the help of senior volunteers. This has been an unqualified success. We have a Human Rights corner in the library to highlight international and national issues. Younger students have made a specially decorated box to go in this area that they monitor for reports of bullying, suggestions and feedback.

    We must now make sure that we publicise our efforts with parents and the community so we are preparing material for the newsletter and local newspaper.

    Marieann Keenan

  • Student Council
  • Posted: 11-05-2009 16:30:06 NZST By Tina-Maree Hooper
  • Hello.

    I thought you might be interested in my rights and responsibilities journey.

    We have just established a student council at my school. Each year level elected a representative and to develop our leadership capacity we have 2 for for year 5 and 2 for year 6. We have had one meeting to elect positions and to create a rationale. Our next meeting (tomorrow) is where I will introduce the students to rights and responsibilities, which is the next step of our CARE programme (Citizenship, Achievement, Responsibility and Effort). I am planning on using some of the photos and resources that I collected on my visit to Hampshire UK last year.

    I will let you know how it goes! I'd welcome any suggestions or comments from anyone on the forum..
    Bye for now,

  • Re: Student Council
  • Posted: 18-05-2009 09:35:44 NZST By Marieann Keenan
  • Tina-Maree

    I was interested in your plan to incorporate HR into your Student Council. I work with our Student Council in a secondary school and we have been working on HR protocols through students and vertical form classes. Our students are starting to use the language but we haven't got enough visual or other reminders around the school to really reinforce the HR message.

    I was interested in how you came up with the CARE notion and your visit to Hampshire in the UK.

    Could you explain further?


  • Re: Re: Student Council
  • Posted: 19-05-2009 09:56:37 NZST By Ced Simpson
  • Some thoughts about reminders:
    - Ask art/graphic design/English classes to develop appropriate poster reminders
    - Ask Student Council organise appropriate labelling of facilities (sports area=rights to health & rest and leisure, library=right to information...)
    - acknowledge human rights significant days through daily/weekly school notices or assemblies.
  • Teaching background to UDHR (secondary)
  • Posted: 03-03-2009 14:57:23 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • My class (Yr 10) seem to have very little knowledge of the context behind the UDHR. They don't seem to know anything about Hitler, Nazis and the 'Final Solution' let alone the war in the pacific. I was wondering if you knew of any documentaries that have footage of the concentration camps, refugees or devastation in general.
    -- first year SocStuds teacher
  • Re: Teaching background to UDHR (secondary)
  • Posted: 03-03-2009 19:48:38 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Ideas received:
    - The best place to start would be to go onto the NZHTA website ( as they have a lot of resources. I would also suggest you contact the holocaust centre in Wellington -
    Both have lots of links and can certainly point you in the right direction.
    - The National Library may be able to help. The History Channel has many docs on these subjects. Generally, the topics you mention are covered in yr 11. Just a word of warning...many concentration-type docs a v graphic, and not appropriate for a young audience.
    - There is lots of material on that area of history – Anne frank would be a good starting point as students often find it easier to identify with an individual rather than a large group. Some people use The Pianist or schedulers list. I like to use Escape from Sobibor. There is also lots of material on the Asian part of the war – nearly every night it’s on the History channel. But there is also a lot of research about the dangers of teaching about say the holocaust as it often reinforces prejudice and can spread anti-Semitism. It may be more successful to look at other violations of civil rights eg. The black civil rights struggle which are less demanding in the classroom.
    - Have just watched a very graphic film called The Grey Zone which very clearly shows what happened to the Jews in Auschwitz. Although a re-enactment it was very powerful, focusing on a group of Jewish Sonderkommando as they unloaded the gas chambers and put the bodies in the ovens etc. There is also the very good BBC? Documentary series Auschwitz.
    - Lots of documentaries on the history channel have covered this. Most schools should have “The Nazis A warning from history” (4 part series), Auschwitz (4 part series) or ‘The Fatal Attraction of Adolf Hitler” (old but very good).
  • Re: Re: Teaching background to UDHR (secondary)
  • Posted: 13-02-2010 11:15:32 NZDT By Marama Henwood
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an excellent book and film to use. We use it in our English department at Year 10. It is about a boy whose father works in a concentration camp and the frienship he forms with one of the young jewish prisoners.
  • Re: Teaching background to UDHR (secondary)
  • Posted: 10-03-2009 14:30:31 NZDT By Adeline Duvivier
  • "Judgement at Nuremberg" (1961) is kind of THE classic film / documentary for history teaching in Europe. An horrible long film but actually really "good" to show the atrocities of the Nazis. Abstracts could be enough to discuss it in Class.

    A Movie and definitely not a documentary was in the last weeks in the cinemas: the boy in the stripped pajamas. Actually without a real view of the historic context but a greater focusing of the child's reactions. About behavior towards a friend who is told to be the enemy, ...
  • * Starting off: How's it going?
  • Posted: 26-02-2009 10:23:22 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Are you contributing to human rights-based education in some form? What have you done? How has it gone? What have the results been?
  • Re: * Starting off: How's it going?
  • Posted: 02-11-2009 09:43:07 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Auckland Girls’ Grammar school became a partner in the HRiE initiative at the beginning of 2008. The first thing we did was to incorporate the language of human rights into our charter. In that first year we began gradually to introduce the idea to staff and students. Teachers have been receptive to the idea and interested in learning more. This year, all Year 9 students took part in an introduction human rights and what it means to be part of a rights respecting school session, as part of their induction programme. In April I was privileged, as a PPTA study award recipient, to visit schools in Hampshire that are well established rights respecting schools. It was fantastic to see the positive results there and to find out that we are on the right track in getting started. I have been able to bring home some great ideas to further integrate the initiative, in particular by using student voice through the student council and a newly formed human rights committee. We have recently launched “project respect” - a positive promotion of respective behaviour, rewarded with AGGS R, R & R badges. We intend to further expand the programme next year, with input from representatives at all levels of the school community. The one difficulty to this end is a lack of resourcing. It would also be helpful to have an external accreditation system such as the UNICEF rights respecting schools award in Britain.
    -- Libby Giles, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School
  • Re: * Starting off: How's it going?
  • Posted: 02-11-2009 09:49:21 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • This year Motueka High School has introduced a Human Rights component to our school. Whilst there has never been any argument about the relevance of Human Rights we have decided to make it more explicit.
    In order for this to occur we invited Ced Simpson and Lynn Scott to Motueka to deliver the message and to give a picture of what some of the possibilities might be in a school setting. They delivered this presentation to all of our staff together with a group of senior students at the end of 2008.
    As a consequence staff and students were excited about the prospect of applying a Human Rights lens to aspects of our school and a group of students volunteered to deliver a programme to their peers at the start of 2009. So in January Ced came back to Motueka and worked with these students, prior to school starting, giving them the background and some of the skills that they might need to do this.
    During the first week of Term 1 these students delivered the programme to their Vertical Form groups with the aim of producing a Motueka High School Charter that would encompass The Rights of all stakeholders, the individual Responsibilities that go with those Rights and the need for Respect of others and our surroundings. The result was a Charter that has been signed off by all students and staff – a school-wide document that has been contributed to by all of us and so belongs to all of us.
    The final Charter was delivered to the full school by some key students and a powerpoint developed by these students is attached.
    -- Rex Smith, Motueka High School (8 May 2009)
  • Re: * Starting off: How's it going?
  • Posted: 17-12-2009 20:54:10 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Indications within Nelson Central School show that there has been a reduction in reported bullying which is very pleasing and we would like to see that this trend continues as HRiE becomes embedded within the culture of the school. What it definitely has achieved both from a parent's perspective and a BOT member is to raise awareness of rights and responsibilities. It has also provided for some quite amusing times sitting around socially with children from NCS and hearing them debating their rights and responsibilities with parents – all very positive.

    HRiE has given the school is a lot more structure around the development of social skills and some of the programs the schools has run in a rather adhoc way. When we work through our strategic plan early in the New Year we will look to incorporate it at the Governance level as well. I think that the enduring nature of the initiative will be great as I am sure that it will be built on year by year and I will be really interested to see the outcome for yr 1 & 2 students now by the time they reach yr 6.

    One of the other impacts that the teachers are noticing from case studies is the fact that the children have a greater awareness of children in other parts of the world who do not share the same rights and freedoms that they themselves enjoy.

    I think we feel this has been a very positive move by the school and the ongoing development of the initiative will have a lasting effect on our culture and values.
    - Geoff Clark, Board chair (17 Dec 2009)
  • Bluestone School (Timaru)
  • Posted: 26-03-2010 11:47:38 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • There has been strong follow-up to the great introductory whole-staff workshop at the end of January. A subsequent staff meeting discussed where to next and a steering group formed to create an action plan. Classes have begun incorporating human rights themes and applying a human rights lens to what is happening in and around the school. Each class is setting up great wall displays. Class agreements/treaties are being established across the school and this will extend to a whole-school statement. Displays and posters are being set up round the school. The Library has collected some wonderful resources to share.

    The juniors have been using fairy tales to generate rights discussion. Year 7 & 8 classes have started with a passion, with human rights themes inspiring student engagement and challenging thinking, resulting in some great indepth discussions.

    Newsletter and Assembly slots promote themes and messages to complement what we are already doing.
    We are seeing student comment starting to appear in class blogs.

    It is all good stuff, practical and inspirational. We will keep you posted!

    -- Ian Poulter, Principal (Feb 2010)
  • * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 25-02-2009 12:12:50 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • We're interested in why people are joining the Initiative. What drew you to it? What are your hopes for the Initiative?
    - Ced Simpson, Facilitation Team
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 28-10-2009 10:12:15 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • More and more our schools are snapshots of the society that is rapidly evolving in this country. There is great diversity of dress, language and histories but now these same children sit down to learn together. Inevitably they will meet differences that seem strange and implicit assumptions about people who are different will be tested. Everyone, but young people in particular need to learn respect for each other and understand that humans have rights that must be protected. There is a place for people to be themselves and there is a call for these same people to be part of an inclusive and respectful society. It’s at school that you begin to learn about these things so I support the initiative sponsored by Amnesty International, the Human Rights Commission and others, to help our schools and early childhood education centres develop as ‘human rights communities’.
    — Sir Paul Reeves
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 28-10-2009 10:13:14 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • During my term as Governor-General, I had a unique opportunity to observe New Zealanders at work and at play. I mixed with thousands of fine, hardworking kiwis in New Zealand and in about thirty countries overseas. I have been privileged to look back on this country and see us through the eyes of around 20 world leaders. We remain among the most highly respected nations in the world – respected for our willingness to work hard, and with all nations to improve the human rights and living standards of those less fortunate than ourselves. But we cannot be complacent; there is room for stronger human rights leadership globally and we know that we face human rights challenges at home –such as in the treatment of our children.
    As Eleanor Roosevelt said once:
    ‘Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
    The idea of developing our schools and early childhood education centres as ‘human rights communities’ fits well with this philosophy. I commend the Initiative.
    — Dame Silvia Cartwright
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 28-10-2009 10:14:22 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Human rights are an expression of human aspirations for dignity, equality, security and freedom to reach one’s potential as a human being. Yet despite our sense of fair play, and the significant role New Zealand has played in the development of the international human rights framework, research indicates that among the general population there is limited knowledge and understanding of human rights.
    Many concerns about the challenges facing our schools are human rights-related. And although much of the current New Zealand education policy is implicitly about the realisation of human rights through education, a better-informed and more explicit human rights approach promises to bring greater coherence to elements of the curriculum and school organisation.
    — Hon. Margaret Wilson
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 02-11-2009 09:42:05 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • For all of the reasons outlined above.
    For schools, HRiE is helpful in underpinning the many programmes in place for promoting well-being and equality in diversity. Almost two years into this initiative, rights, respect and responsibility are becoming entrenched into the culture of our whole school community. Far more than a great idea – it is a requirement. While New Zealand is seen as having been an exemplary international citizen since the establishment of the United Nations, we need to ensure that we are meeting our obligations at home.
    -- Libby Giles, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 02-11-2009 09:47:07 NZDT By Ced Simpson
  • Motueka High School has recently decided to take part in the Human Rights in Education Initiative. We have not done this lightly, and it is only after some consideration that we realise that there is a natural synergy between schools and human rights. Like any school, Motueka High School has a Behaviour Code and has expectations of how students and staff behave and interact with each other within the school environment. What the human rights approach allows is for those expectations and behaviours to have a solid framework based around human rights legislation. Human rights are all encompassing and have been developed and built on by eminent people over a period of 60 years. For us, human rights based education will be a whole-school approach to school organisation and to learning and we believe it will bring value through a more consultative cohesive community of staff and students.
    -- Rex Smith, Motueka High School (22 Dec 2008)
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 19-04-2010 15:34:43 NZST By Ced Simpson
  • I was a secondary school principal for 12 years until I became a Human Rights Commissioner in 2008. We (that is, the students, staff, parents and I) talked about our school as a community, as an extended whanau, because we knew that teaching and learning only flourishes if it is based upon the understanding that schooling is first and foremost about relationships between and among students and teachers and whanau, about shared commitments and values, about taking care that consistently what is best for the student is what gets done. If this is expressed in the language of human rights it is about building a consistent culture of rights, respect and responsibility.

    For 12 years on the pin board over my desk I had printed in large letters, Aristotle’s succinct observation that “there is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals”. I thought about this most days.
    How to put the rhetoric into practice, how to sustain the practice? What IS best practice? Any school environment is intensely complex and diverse and filled with daily challenges as children and young people navigate the lessons of the classroom and the playground. Every school has its own culture, its own particular combination of challenges and priorities but we know that bullying, truancy and the long tail of underachievement in our schools are the most serious challenges to the right to education which New Zealand schools face today. There is strong international evidence to show that it makes sense to use a human rights framework to deal with human rights abuses.

    Tackling those abuses through a human rights framework, would start with an explicit understanding by all members of the school community of internationally and cross-culturally agreed entitlements to dignity, equality, security and the freedom to reach potential in the school setting. Agreement about how to go about this would be reflected in the school’s strategic vision, goals and operational policies as well as in the daily myriad of interactions inside and beyond the classroom door. This is what I understand education theorist, Tom Sergiovanni calls the heartbeat of a school.

    - Karen Johansen, former principal of Gisborne Girls’ High School
  • Re: * Why 'human rights in education'?
  • Posted: 29-04-2010 10:43:53 NZST By Ced Simpson
  • I would see the importance of education in Human Rights as being fundamental to the continuance of a free and democratic society particularly in the context of the absence of a written constitution. The emphasis on both rights and responsibilities strikes a balance which is too often missing and the earlier and more explicit that connection is made the more chance that we will end up with a society that values and protects those rights.
    - Anonymous donor