Teachers, Human Rights and Human Rights Education

The Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, has just launched the results of its research into Irish Primary teachers understanding of human rights and human rights education. This study provides the first national baseline data in relation to primary teachers’ knowledge and perceptions of human rights and HRE and contributes to the development of a research base on HRE in Ireland. The findings of the study help identify the needs of teachers and schools in relation to the delivery of HRE and also point to the level of compliance of the Irish state with regard to its commitment to implement HRE in primary schools.

While the study’s findings were positive in relation to respondents’ attitudes and openness towards human rights and HRE,  the results support concerns regarding the level of knowledge of human rights and human rights instruments amongst teachers (Osler and Starkey, 2010; Imber, 2008; Casas, Saporiti, Gonzalez, Figuer, Rostan, Sadurni, Alsinet, Gusó, Grignoli, Mancini, Ferrucci and Rago, 2006; Fritzsche, 2006; Tibbitts, 2002). What emerged from the survey are many examples of practices occurring in primary schools and classrooms which respond to human rights concerns and incorporate rights respecting approaches. However, these activities tend to be inexplicit in their relationship with human rights. Furthermore, despite much of the literature reflecting the potential for HRE to provide transformative learning experiences and critique social injustices (Tibbitts and Kirscshlaeger 2010; Magendzo, 2005; Tibbitts, 2005; Tibbitts, 2002), respondents’ conceptualisation of human rights tended to ignore hierarchical social structures, whilst their approach to HRE focused on improved social cohesion rather than empowerment.

To view a full version of the research report go to: www.spd.dcu.ie/hosted/chrce/Research.htm