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Why the HRiE approach bears fruit (May 2009)

Last Updated (Thursday, 25 March 2010 11:15)

The experience of the English county of Hampshire is that human rights-based education can have a profound impact on student participation, engagement, and achievement. Why does a whole-school approach to education based on a culture of human rights, respect and responsibility work? The answer lies in the way it reflects various best practices identified in the Ministry's best evidence synthesis work.

Three of the key characteristics of higher performing schools are:

  • staff consensus about school goals and expectations;
  • a coherent programme, guided by a common set of principles and key ideas, which gives students experiences that connect with and build on one another;
  • an orderly and supportive environment in which the teachers are "simultaneously caring, courageous and respectful".

Participating schools in Human Rights in Education introduce and use the cross-culturally agreed international human rights framework to...

  • conceptualise and sharpen the mission of the school/centre, and tie together existing policies and programmes;
  • develop active citizenship in and beyond the school based on a consistent culture of rights, respect and responsibility, creating an orderly and supportive learning environment and enhancing participation in and contribution to the wider community;
  • provide a useful lens and "critical toolkit" which can be applied to content across the curriculum, including the exploration of contentious issues and themes relevant to our globalising world.

The constant use of a "rights and responsibilities" lens across the life of the school is a major factor in the success of a whole-school approach in bringing about student participation, engagement and achievement.


For school leaders: the School Resource Kit (May 2009)

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

The basic guide to the Human Rights in Education Initiative is the HRiE School Resource Kit.

Wondering what the criteria are for judging whether a school is a rights-respecting education community? Included in the School Resource Kit are the Unicef UK Rights-Respecting School benchmarks which underpin Unicef UK's Rights Respecting Schools Award. We'd welcome your feedback on them, and we'll be developing our own criteria during 2010.

Applying a human rights and responsibilities lens (May 2009)

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

There are numerous activities directed specifically at developing understanding of and commitment to human rights - including those accessible through the HRiE/MTT website. But much of the most effective human rights learning occurs when teachers apply a human rights lens to existing curriculum content. Indispensable basic information tools include the one-page summaries of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)


Additional materials are available free direct from the Office of the Children's Commissioner (UNCRoC) and the Human Rights Commission (UDHR).


Rights and Responsibilities Agreements (Feb 2009)

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

Work on these and other themes has begun in earnest in the Human Rights in Education lead schools. In most the process has begun with negotiation of Rights and Responsibilities Agreements.

"I have made a start in my classroom discussing rights and responsibilities and creating a charter, and I've been referring to R & R when dealing with behaviour management. The kids have talked about using the responsibilities as their personal goals for term 1 which was a great link for them to make. My class gave a presentation to a school assembly on rights and responsibilities, and other classes are going to do their own charters. My class are visiting a junior class next week to present a little role play to them about R & R. I think it's great and is starting to make a lot of sense!" - Hayley Ryan, Dawson Primary School (Otara).

"I have already been following the outline on how to make a Class Agreement, and with a few changes I have had fabulous responses from the children. I am amazed how many rights they believe they have; it has been great to come up collectively with the related responsibilities. It might be too early to see any great impact but the words ‘Rights and Responsibilities' flow freely in the classroom. The understanding they have of their responsibilities gives the children a lot more ownership over their behaviour. They are aware of the need to ‘respect' everyone's ‘rights' and this is easily reinforced now with the correct language. I am excited to see how this year progresses through the human rights lens." - Helen Zachariassen, Nelson Central Primary School.

Many New Zealand teachers start the year with classroom contracts, but the difference here is the explicit linkage to the internationally-agreed rights young people have. Making this linkage helps students understand how human rights were negotiated and agreed (a Social Studies achievement objective), adds weight to the agreed rights and responsibilities, and provides a constant opportunity for human rights learning as Agreements are used to guide behaviour.


See Rights & Responsibilities Agreements: Joining the Dots Developing a Class Agreement


But R&R Agreements are only part of the story

Negotiated Rights and Responsibilities Agreements are but one - albeit significant - tool in a human rights-based education approach. The improvements in student participation, engagement and achievement, as well as teacher satisfaction, come from applying the "human rights and responsibilities lens across the life of the school. Behavioural and cultural changes ( for students and teachers!) associated with human rights-based education occur because of the internalisation that results from continually using a "rights and responsibilities" approach informed by the international human rights framework.


Critical to this process is seeing and exploring the human rights and responsibilities dimension across all learning areas.


See how one dean is exploring human rights with year 10 students at Queen Margaret College (Wellington).


Unicef resource on child rights and responsibilities (Feb 2009)

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

Last year Unicef NZ sent to the head of social studies in each primary and intermediate school a CD entitled Learning about Child Rights and Responsibilities. Aimed at years 5-8, the CD contains classroom lesson outlines "designed to help New Zealand children understand their own rights and responsibilities, and then link these to the rights of children everywhere". The CD includes ‘supporting images, videoclips, case studies, curriculum links and information about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.' Several teachers have told us that they have found the CD hugely useful. Order your free copy by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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