Magna Carta and the Holy Grail… Human Rights in the Classroom

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Start with the basics.. “Education is both a human right in itself, and an indispensable means of realising other human rights”. At the recent “Australian College of Educators: Educators on the Edge” presentation by Gillian Triggs, entitled “Innovative technologies and human rights education”, put this forth as the purpose of education. While we often look only superficially into the Rights of the Child in terms of Education, the depth that Gillian Triggs believes we should delve into, is that there should be a priority placed on education as being a vehicle to global understanding of human rights.


Article 28 (Right to education): All children have the right to a primary education, which should be free. Wealthy countries should help poorer countries achieve this right. Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education, schools must be run in an orderly way – without the use of violence. Any form of school discipline should take into account the child’s human dignity. Therefore, governments must ensure that school administrators review their discipline policies and eliminate any discipline practices involving physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect. The Convention places a high value on education. Young people should be encouraged to reach the highest level of education of which they are capable.

Article 29 (Goals of education): Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures. It should also help them learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people. Children have a particular responsibility to respect the rights their parents, and education should aim to develop respect for the values and culture of their parents. The Convention does not address such issues as school uniforms, dress codes, the singing of the national anthem or prayer in schools. It is up to governments and school officials in each country to determine whether, in the context of their society and existing laws, such matters infringe upon other rights protected by the Convention.


Conceptually, this was an inspirational push forwards to embedding human rights, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen in 2015 and beyond. However, how do you excel in the teaching of human rights, when your background is not one of a human rights lawyer, and indeed most of your education existed prior to the rights of the child being published? The answer, from the UNHCR, is simple… “We’ve done a lot of it for you”

A quick visit to opens our eyes to a myriad of different content that can support a wide variety of subjects.

In celebrating the anniversary of the Magna Carta, many teachers would have been at a loss to describe the diverse array of social and human rights that the document has afforded us. Most teachers would have studied at great lengths to prepare an interesting learning experience, however, UNHCR have created one thats ready to go, and supports the international expectations of human rights education

Further to this, there is a truly brilliant resource, entitled “choose your own statistics” that gives teachers an opportunity to teach national and global human rights issues within the frameworks of Australian Curriculum subjects, such as Mathematics. I encourage everyone to embed these statistics into their curriculum. We often “engage” with students by the use of footy statistics or things that are easily accessible to us, when there are global issues and human rights issues that can be highlighted and promote amazing classroom learning outcomes if used wisely.

Gillian Triggs summarised her point of view perfectly: “Being an Educator on the Edge means more than just technological innovation. It means using the innovations to make lasting change.”


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