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Building human rights into learning inquiries (Dec 2009)

Last Updated (Thursday, 25 March 2010 11:13)

At Nelson Central, ‘human rights' has become a key strand of the school's inquiry learning approach, linked in 2009 to the school theme of ‘Citizenship is everybody's business'":

  • A year 1 class blogged: ‘This term we have been thinking about rights for everyone. We have particularly thought about the rights of those with disabilities. As part of the last stage in our inquiry model we had to communicate with others all the things that made Nelson Central School disable friendly and things that didn't make Nelson Central disable friendly. We also had to come up with new ideas that would make Nelson Central even more disable friendly. We have made a movie to communicate this with others. Sally showed us about story boarding and then with Sally's help we planned out our movie. It was also very exciting because Sally and Tania taught us how to take little movies using the digital camera.'
  • The senior Syndicate examined the purposes and functions of the student council based on the key idea that "As a member of a community we all have the right to be involved in the decision making process". The culmination of the process saw each class create a proposal for how our student council should be structured and elected so that it better represented all children at NCS. The classes held an expo where all the children at NCS were able to hear the different presentations and proposals and then had the opportunity to vote (by secret ballot) on which proposal should to be implemented. The result was a restructured student council with stronger ‘ambassador' links with junior classes.
  • Year 2-4 classes decided to explore the human rights of children by comparing how children's rights are observed at Nelson Central School with those at another school in a different time or place. They found a Save the Children website helping them to get to know a community of children in Kroo Bay, a slum area of Freetown in Sierra Leone. The children researched how basic children's rights were realised (or not) in Kroo Bay and ultimately made movies to highlight the differences. (see, for example, Their next topic was about ‘ways we express ourselves', with the final task being to perform or present an item which expresses an idea or opinion.' The children converted their knowledge into speeches which were then presented to members of the congregation from the church next door in an effort to persuade them to support Save the Children Fund. When the Samoan Tsunami led the congregation to reprioritise its fundraising efforts, the children addressed the student council which agreed to join the effort.
Building a question such as ‘What/whose human rights and responsibilities are involved?' into your inquiry template increases the effectiveness of human rights learning by providing for multiple exposure to key human rights concepts in differing settings, and contributes to more critical and analytical thinking about inquiry topics.

Does human rights-based education ‘work’? (Nov 2009)

Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 November 1999 12:00)

When early partners in Human Rights in Education first talked with colleagues in the Ministry of Education a few years back about working together to meet New Zealand's international legal obligations to take a human rights approach to education we were asked ‘Where is the evidence that it contributes to education outcomes?'

The ‘evidence-based" mantra is understandable: how can we be confident that a particular approach will actually better realise the agreed right every young New Zealander has to education?

Our confidence is based on three main sources:

  • the experience of the English county of Hampshire (see Rights, Respect, Responsibilities)
  • a careful reading of the conclusions of the world-renowned best evidence syntheses commissioned by the Ministry of Education (particularly Quality Teaching (2003), School Leadership (2009), Effective Pedagogy in Social Sciences (2008) and Teacher Professional Learning & Development (2007))
  • the international momentum for human rights-based education.

Twenty years since... Two significant dates in November (Nov 2009)

Last Updated (Saturday, 10 May 2014 11:11)


On 20 November 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the treaty that spells out the human rights of all young people under 18 years. It has become the most universally-accepted human rights treaty; all UN states except Somalia and the USA have agreed to be bound by its provisions, including New Zealand which ratified it in 1993. The Convention introduced policy principles that have since become part of our political landscape - such as ‘action in the best interests of the child' and the requirement that children have a say in matters affecting them.

Just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights urged that ‘every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights', article 42 of the Convention requires New Zealand to ‘undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike'.

New Zealand's breach of these commitments was one of the main drivers behind the Human Rights in Education Initiative.

*Celebrate UNCRoC's 20 years by doing your bit to promote it:

· Visit Unicef's UNCRoC website to learn more about the Convention

· Download a poster of a simplified version of UNCRoC from Save the Children or a summary poster from the Office of the Children's Commissioner:

convention_2 (in English & te reo Māori)

· Introduce it to every young person you know. (One page summary. Version for teenagers. Full text)

· Celebrate! See below for more ideas.

The other key anniversary? The opening of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989.


International momentum (Nov 2009)

Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 November 1999 12:00)

There are two significant recent developments in support of human rights-based education at the International level:

  • The UN Human Rights Council - one of the ‘principal organs' of the United Nations - has decided that one of the two target areas for the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (from 2010) should be human rights training programmes for teachers and educators.
  • A draft of a UN Declaration on the Right to Human Rights Education is to be submitted to the Human Rights Council for consideration at its 13th session in March 2010.

Children with disabilities (Nov 2009)

Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 November 1999 12:00)

New Zealand won a prestigious international award for its role in championing one of the most recent human rights treaties - the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A handy downloadable guide that should be part of every educator's library, It's About Ability, has recently been published by Unicef.

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