Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development

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Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development

Human rights are the result of humanity’s increasing and persistent demand for dignity, respect, justice, protection and freedom—all needed for a decent human existence. The contemporary conception of human tries. It was followed by many other declara-

rights has historical roots. Rousseau, Socrates, tions issued at the International Congress on

and Plato in the West, and Manu, Vyasadeva, Human Rights (Teheran, 1968), the Interna-

Gandhi, Aurobindo, and others in India have tional Congress on the Teaching of Human

enunciated principles of human rights. Impor- Rights (Vienna, 1978) organized by UNESCO,

tant milestones in the struggle for human rights the Seminar on the Teaching of Human Rights

are the struggle between the British crown and (Geneva, 1988), and the United Nations World

Parliament, the French revolution, the struggle Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993),

for American independence, the Russian revo- which recommended the adoption of the

lution, and the adoption of the Universal Dec- United Nations Decade for Human Rights

laration of Human Rights by the United Na- Education (1995-2004).

tions on 10 December 1948. The Declaration

The past half-century since the adoption of

symbolized the beginning of the international the UN Charter has been dismal for human

human rights movement. In 1959, children’s rights. Some have called it catastrophic (Dev

rights to life, education, health, protection, and 1996). Human rights education is stressed in

development were proclaimed in the Declara- all human rights documents as “an essential

tion of the Rights of the Child.

contribution to the development of a global

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights human rights culture.”

embodies a set of guarantees enabling one

• not just to live but to live with dignity; • to develop fully and use one’s human

Historic Events

qualities, intelligence, talents, and con- It is universally accepted that education is the

science; and

best source of social mobility, equality, and

• to satisfy one’s physical, mental, social, and empowerment, both at the individual and col-

spiritual needs.

lective levels. Further, it is considered as a pre-

condition for a healthy democratic society. It

In other words, it asserts one’s right to be is thus important that education include the

human. The first sentence of the Declaration study of peace, human rights, and democracy

states that respect for human rights is the as essential to society’s development.

“foundation of freedom, justice and peace in

The Declaration states the following:

the world.” The Declaration has influenced the

constitutions and legal systems of various coun-



Every one has the right to education. Education shall be free at least at the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups and further the activities for maintenance of peace (Article 26).
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976) reaffirms and strengthens these provisions. The 1978 International Congress on the Teaching of Human Rights and the 1993 Vienna conference called upon UN member-states to introduce human rights education at all levels of education.
The World Congress on Human Rights in Delhi, 1990, urged that human rights education be understood as encompassing formal, nonformal, and informal education systems, and also reach parents and policymakers. It aimed to develop awareness of how to translate human rights into social and political reality.
The 1993 Vienna conference reiterated the urgency of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and emphasized that human rights education must be treated as essential to the development of a global human rights culture. Four paragraphs of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action are related to education and training:
The World Conference on Human Rights considers human rights education, training and public information essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.

States should strive to eradicate illiteracy and should direct education towards the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on all States and institutions to include human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law as subjects in the curricula of all learning institutions in formal and non-formal settings.
Human rights education should include peace, democracy, development and social justice, as set forth in international and regional human rights instruments, in order to achieve common understanding and awareness with a view to strengthening universal commitment to human rights.
Taking into account the World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy, adopted in March 1993 by the International Congress on Education for Human Rights and Democracy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and other human rights instruments, the World Conference on Human Rights recommends that States develop specific programmes and strategies for ensuring the widest human rights education and the dissemination of public information, taking particular account of the human rights needs of women.
Pursuant to the Vienna Declaration, the UN declared 1995-2004 as the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education. The Decade’s Plan of Actions aims to accomplish the following:
• Assess needs and formulate strategies to further human rights education at all school levels, in vocational training and formal as well as nonformal learning.
• Build and strengthen programs and capacities for human rights education at the international, regional, national, and local levels.

Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development • 87

• Coordinate the development of human rights education materials.
• Strengthen the role and capacity of the mass media in the furtherance of human rights education.
• Globally disseminate the Declaration in the most number of languages possible and in other forms appropriate for various levels of literacy and for the disabled.
Human rights education is defined as training, dissemination, and information efforts aimed at building a universal culture of human rights by imparting knowledge and skills, and molding attitudes.
Human rights education has five dimensions: • strengthening respect for the human per-
sonality and its dignity; • fully developing the human personality
and its dignity; • promoting understanding, tolerance, gen-
der equality, and friendship among all nations, indigenous peoples, and racial, national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups; • enabling all persons to participate effectively in a free society; and • furthering the activities of the United Nations to maintain peace (Guidelines for national plans of action for human rights education–UN–A/52/469/Add.1.)
The Indian Constitution and Human Rights
The Constitution shapes the country’s concept of human rights. The Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles of the State policy are concrete steps toward the realization of human rights. Whereas basic objectives have been defined in the Preamble, the protection of human freedom and liberties are emphasized in Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The rights of the child have been given the greatest priority. Since rights and duties

are inseparable, Fundamental Duties (Article 51) are also imperative. These provisions epitomize the collective will and aspiration of all Indians.
The following provisions in Constitution safeguard human rights:
• equality before the law (Article 14); • nondiscrimination on ground of religion,
race, caste, sex, and place of birth (Article 15); • equality of opportunity (Article 16); • freedom of speech, expression, assembly,
association, movement, residence, acquisition, and disposition of property, practice of any profession, carrying out any occupation, trade, or business (Article 19); • prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor (Article 23); • prohibition of labor in case of children below 14 years (Article 24); • freedom of religion (Article 25); • no provision for religious instruction in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds (Article 28); • conservation of language, scripts, and culture (Article 29 [1]); • right of minorities to administer educational institutions (Article 30); • State guarantee of social order (Article 38 [1], Directive Principles of State Policy); • adequate means of livelihood, equal pay for equal work for both men and women, non-abuse of health of the worker, opportunity for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity (Article 39, Directive Principles of State Policy); • right to work, education, and public assistance in specific cases (Article 41, Directive Principles of State Policy); • provision for free and compulsory education of children up to 14 years of age (Article 45, Directive Principles of State Policy); and • ensuring education and economic development of scheduled castes, scheduled


tribes, and other weaker sections of society (Article 46, Directive Principles of State Policy).
Educational Policies and Human Rights
The reports of various Education Commissions and the statement of educational policy have articulated the importance of the right to education and education in human rights as part of the effort to reform and develop education. They assign special status in the national educational system to women, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, and the handicapped, and emphasize values education. They also define the basic components of the core curriculum, which reflects some important human rights concerns.
The National Curriculum Framework is provided for by the 1986 National Education Policy. It covers core elements that cut across narrow subject boundaries and is designed to promote values such as India’s common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy, secularism, equality of the sexes, observance of small-family norms, and inculcation of scientific temper, among other things.
Policies and Actions
Human rights education is significant as an instrument of raising awareness of human rights.
Of the world’s school children, about 77% are in primary school, and of these, 68% are girls. As per the Annual Report of UNICEF (1999), 130 million primary-school-age children in the developing world are denied the right to basic and quality education; 70 million are girls (40 million of whom are Indian girls). It is lamentable that in the early 1990s, more than one quarter of the 95 million school children in developing countries did not reach the fifth grade. Most countries failed to achieve universal access to education by year 2000.

Human rights education is not a mere vision. It will become a way of life. It is necessary if nonformal education is to prepare millions of children to be good world citizens. A framework to support nonformal human rights education has to be developed.
Why Human Rights Education in the School Curriculum?
Schooling provides not only basic education but also, under the best circumstances, aids a child to explore the world and express ideas. The school can help establish an intellectual basis for teaching the historical development of human rights and their contemporary significance. This knowledge should ultimately extend beyond the pupils’ immediate environment and culture. Human rights should be presented in the context of a society’s moral and social traditions. The school is not just for transmitting a national ideology and a common historical memory through the curriculum. On a deeper level, like the political nation, the school forms a constructed place in which students, like citizens, are treated equally, irrespective of their background. The concept of the school is like the “concept of citizenship, impersonal and formal. By understanding the idea of school as a community, citizens will learn to understand and feel included in the political nation” (Osler and Starkey 1996). The school is a model of good society as John Dewey (1909) suggested. Schools are places where it is theoretically possible to operate a community based on social justice and human rights.
The climate of a school should encourage open expression of views and dialogue between students and teachers. The school can work toward building a closer relationship between itself and the community. Human rights should permeate the whole school—from its ethos and organization to the content of its curriculum.
The first National Curriculum Framework formulated by the National Council of Educa-

Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development • 89

tional Research and Training (NCERT) in 1975 states: “The awakening of social consciousness, the development of democratic values and of a feeling for social injustice and national integration are extremely important…. All subjects should be taught in such a manner so as to foster the spirit of scientific humanism.” The National Curriculum Framework for primary and secondary education (NCERT 1988) identifies and addresses some of these concerns such as promoting values of egalitarianism, democracy, secularism, equality, removal of social barriers, and creating a sense of common citizenship. It proposes that the school curriculum reflects some world issues and helps make children become aware of and appreciate different world cultures.
Highlighting the need to strengthen national identity, the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCERT 2000) reaffirms the 10 core components identified in the National Policy on Education (1986):
• the history of India’s freedom movement; • Constitutional obligations; • the content essential to nurture national
identity; • India’s common cultural heritage; • egalitarianism; • democracy and secularism; • equality of the sexes; • protection of the environment; • removal of social barriers; • observance of small-family norms; and • inculcation of scientific temper.
It further emphasizes the need to include the fundamental duties as laid down in Article 51 A of Part IV A of the Constitution as common core components of the curriculum: “These core components need to be integrated in school curriculum in a suitable manner. It is envisaged that they would help in instilling a nationally shared perception and values and creating an ethos and value system in which a common Indian identity could be strengthened.”

Curriculum Development
Curriculum development includes curriculum planning, formulation of curriculum policy, implementation, and evaluation. The process of curriculum renewal has to be continuous to accommodate new developments and changes in various subjects. The curriculum development exercises should be undertaken as a systematically planned improvement strategy based on accepted foundational principles. Human rights education should not only be incorporated into the formal curriculum as a separate subject but also integrated into the entire curriculum, including the hidden curriculum (i.e., the culture of schooling and teacher training institutions and programs). Human rights teaching materials should be produced in different forms. There should be no separate human rights curriculum. Rather, human rights dimensions can be integrated into the existing curriculum. The heart of human rights education is curriculum development for all stages of school education. The curriculum should incorporate valuable ideas from the Vienna Declaration—human rights, humanitarian law, democracy, rule of law, peace, development, and social justice. We can add many more to provide local color and to relate human rights with the needs of learners at different stages. Maybe some of these topics are already in the curriculum, but now the challenge is to make the topics the main agenda of learning.
Objectives of Human Rights Education
Human rights education aims to do the following:
• Enhance the knowledge and understanding of human rights.
• Foster attitudes of tolerance, respect, solidarity, and responsibility.
• Develop awareness of how human rights can be translated into social and political reality.
• Develop skills for protecting human rights.


The design of the curriculum needs to be built on the philosophical, psychological, and sociological bases of curriculum planning and development. The school curriculum should work toward the holistic development of the individual.
Methodology, Approaches, and Strategies
Human rights education can be incorporated into the school curriculum in several ways:
• The formal curriculum: Schools may choose to examine their present curriculums and identify areas where themes and elements of human rights education already exist. Human rights education is considered the most important part of the core curriculum of good general education.
• The informal curriculum: Human rights education can also be promoted through the extracurricular and co-curricular activities of the school.
• The hidden curriculum: Human rights education should also address the farreaching hidden curriculum of the school to create a school atmosphere that truly reflects respect for human rights. Values, attitudes, knowledge, and patterns of behavior should be integrated into the students’ personal experiences in order to help them view reality critically.
Context and Approaches to Curriculum Organization
The contexts of and approaches to incorporating human rights education in the curriculum are the following:
• Direct context: This involves including specific topics or subjects that focus on human rights education into mathematics, science, or history subjects, for example. India has introduced human rights education at the higher education levels. Recently, the Indira Gandhi National

Open University (IGNOU) started a certificate course in human rights education. • Indirect context: This involves the use of all school subjects as vehicles for human rights education. Some examples are (i) creating “learning units in human rights” in order to integrate the content of different subjects toward solving a particular problem and (ii) including human rights elements in every subject. • Implicit context: This involves the creation of a sociocultural ethos in schools that will develop students’ understanding of human rights.
The question is how to introduce the new curriculums at various levels. It is obvious that one more subject cannot be added to an already overloaded curriculum, as it would constitute a violation of human rights of sorts. Human rights education should be integrated into existing curriculums. The question, however, is what and how much is to be integrated. The answer requires a selection of issues. Teaching the basic rights may be done under the umbrella of ethics. At the secondary level, basic and other rights may be introduced into existing foundation courses.
Content and Core Values
The first question in curriculum building is in what way human rights issues can be structured and elaborated upon at different levels.
The curriculum, among other things, stresses the following core values:
• Issues of human rights and democracy: (i) dignity; (ii) equality; (iii) justice; (iv) protection of rights; (v) freedom of participation; (vi) freedom of speech and expression; and (vii) freedom of religious belief.
• Values and attitudes: (i) human rights and democracy; (ii) cooperation and solidarity; (iii) preservation of culture; (iv) self and others; (v) internationalism; (vi) protection of the environment; and (vii) spirituality.

Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development • 91

These values are deemed universally acceptable and desirable in such documents as the Declaration, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, etc.
Human rights education is interdisciplinary. The central area may be outlined as follows: (i) education for tolerance; (ii) democracy and national understanding; (iii) protection of human rights; (iv) violation of human rights and democratic freedom; (v) economic rights; (vi) civil rights; (vii) critical thinking; (viii) scientific temper; (ix) intellectual honesty; (x) justice and empathy; (xi) legal awareness; (xii) equality of educational opportunity; (xiii) gender equality; (xiv) political economy and humanism; (xv) minority rights; (xvi) local government and civic rights; (xvii) constitutionalism and legitimacy; (xviii) history and philosophy of human rights; (xix) world citizenship; (xx) role of the UN; (xxi) human rights and national and world histories; (xxii) international understanding; and (xxiii) environmental protection.
Human rights education should focus on attitudes of tolerance, respect, and solidarity, and develop individual awareness of how human rights can be translated into social and political reality.
Basic Approach
The basic approach to human rights education in schools is to integrate it into various subjects and not treat it as a separate area of study. It also requires a multidisciplinary approach. The issue of human rights is inextricably linked with other major curricular issues. The National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCERT 2000) recommends the integration of various curricular concerns:
The curriculum development process is often influenced by a ‘panic approach’ in which the local, national or international developments with some socio-economic and

political bearing influence the decisions concerning the curriculum without prior, careful and structured planning. This ‘panic approach’ of including new and temporal curricular concerns may often lead to an overloading of the curriculum. At a time when concerns such as ‘literacy’, ‘family system’, ‘neighborhood education’, ‘environmental education’, ‘consumer education’, ‘tourism education’, ‘AIDS education’, ‘human rights education’, ‘legal literacy’, ‘peace education’, ‘population education’, ’migration education’, ‘global education’ and ‘safety education’ are making a case for separate place in the school curriculum, the best approach would be to integrate these ideas and concepts, after a careful analysis in the existing areas of learning. Appropriate strategies for this integration may be suitably worked out in the detailed subject curricula.
It is vital to examine the learning opportunities available when designing new curriculum or introducing specific changes so as to avoid a disparity between expectation and reality. This should constitute a realistic approach—meaningful, responsive, and result oriented. Human rights is itself an educational conception involving human interaction inside and outside school.
Human Rights Education and Curriculum
Human rights education is not treated as a separate area of the curriculum but is integrated into various subjects at different stages:
• the Indian political system and Constitution;
• problems and challenges of contemporary life—political, economic, social, cultural, educational—that have direct or indirect bearing on human rights;
• diversity and variety of Indian culture, its composite and non-monolithic character;
• the Indian social system and dynamics of social change;


• major events in Indian and world history relating to the struggle for political and civil rights as well as economic and social rights, and the role of the people and outstanding leaders in these struggles;
• the world human rights situation with regard to gross violations in the form of colonialism, racism, and apartheid; and
• literary works that reflect human rights concerns and the quest for freedom and rights.
Major historical documents such as the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be discussed. It is imperative to discuss the human rights curriculum as a cross-curricular approach at the elementary and secondary levels.
Human rights education and the elementary-level curriculum
The major subject areas relevant to human rights at the lower-primary stage are social studies, environmental studies, and languages.
• Human rights issues are integrated into environmental studies, starting with the child’s immediate environment and gradually taking the child to the study of the district, state, country, and the world.
• Narratives and biographies of men and women from the history of India and of the world, India’s freedom struggle, and certain aspects of the Indian Constitution should be included in this course.
• The language curriculum should focus on the development of compassion, tolerance, and sympathy, through stories and poems.
• Environmental studies dealing with family, neighborhood, relations, food, clothing, shelter, religious festivals, and national heroes expand the knowledge of and respect for diversity and human equality.

• Children also develop an understanding of independent India as it evolved during the freedom struggle. Learning about the nation’s goals and the main features of the Constitution—fundamental rights, directive principles of State policy, and fundamental duties, as well as secularism and democracy—may help promote human rights.
In the upper-primary stage, the major subject areas relevant to human rights education are social studies, science, and languages.
• History courses deal mainly with Indian history and, in general, with the history of world civilization, stressing an understanding and appreciation of India’s cultural heritage and composite nature, its richness and variety. They focus on understanding diversity and consideration for other’s rights.
• The human rights dimension lies in providing a critical understanding of Indian society through the ages, with focus on the position of women and the inequalities created by the caste system.
• Children should be made aware of legislative reforms and the role of international organizations in uplifting women and children.
• The course in geography helps children develop an appreciation for different ways of living, interdependence, and sharing of common values by diverse cultures. Civics helps promote values of democracy, secularism, socialism, and national integration. It also includes the study of issues relating the environment, arms race, and human rights. Children develop a perspective of these problems in an international context. It is possible to introduce the student to a more comprehensive view of the concept of human rights and the interconnection between the ideals of secularism and democracy.

Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development • 93

• The thematic and ideational content in language help to promote awareness of human rights, international understanding, and related issues of global significance. The subject of language similarly lays the foundation for an appreciation of the underlying humanistic values conveyed through folk tales, legends, poems, essays, and dramas.
• Science is an undiversified subject. Stress is on inculcating a national outlook and thereby helping to combat obscurantism and prejudice based on narrow consideration of caste, sex, or religion. The course guidelines also emphasize promoting understanding of the processes and problem areas related to agriculture, health and nutrition, environmental protection, energy, material resources, and, more important, developing a scientific attitude.
Human rights education and the secondary curriculum
Secondary schools offer a much wider and varied range of opportunities to teach human rights and to practice and observe rights and duties.
• A literature course may offer the opportunity to study the rights of children and young people. Literature and language classes can be used to promote cultural exchanges with schools in other countries as well as to promote social relations, peace, freedom, and justice.
• At this stage, “the global perspective” and “major concerns” are integrated into the social sciences. Human rights can be taught in the context and understanding of the following: • “small” society—family life, school, and community; • the “big” society—community, country, and State; • forms of government—democratic, dictatorship, parliamentary;

• the United Nations; • the world today—East-West problems,
armaments, events, and personalities in international affairs; • the world around us—studies of individual countries; • the family and society—economic, political, and cultural interdependence; and • religion and philosophy of life—What do we believe in? Analysis of different religions, traditional beliefs, and practices. • History allows the study of human rights as it covers topics such as the growth of democracy, development of trade unions, social reforms, and independence movements. The Industrial Revolution, and its impact on countries outside Europe, might be linked with the study of the International Labour Organization and its efforts to ensure just and equitable conditions for all workers, and to abolish child labor and other abuses of human dignity. It also introduces the students to some of the significant declarations on human rights, from the American Declaration of Independence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. • Geography stresses environmental and pollution issues and the study of international ecological problems. • Civics focuses on Indian democracy, including topics such as the individual and society, democratic citizenship, the Constitution, the judiciary, democracy, foreign policy, the UN, world problems (human rights, disarmament, new international order, etc.). • Economics focuses mainly on the study of the Indian economy—economic development and social justice—by covering content areas such as the rights of consumers, and consumer protection. • Science stresses the development of scientific temper; cultivation of social, ethi-


cal, and social values; and the possible misuse of science. Biology can explore the scientific bases for human rights and social prejudice. Science can also include teaching of health, diseases, and the contribution of the World Health Organization. • Mathematics can teach the skills related to elementary statistics and graphing, which may be used to interpret data on food and population, agriculture and industrial outputs, expenditure on armaments and on education, and other topics that have a bearing on basic human rights. Natural science and mathematics also reflect the modern scientific and technological work that may either benefit humankind or work to its detriment.
Teaching Human Rights through Co-curricular Activities
Human rights education goes beyond subject teaching to organization of other activities and should be considered as an integral part of the whole education process.
Activities that promote cooperation and group living can include human rights content. Teachers can involve elementary-school children in creative tasks such as paper cutting, drawing, collage, and work related to science, environmental studies, and social studies. Exhibitions, displays, and debates on human rights issues should be considered as core elements of human rights education. The activities themselves lead to an understanding of human rights as the children learn to cooperate and respect each other.
Theater and literacy activities should be part of human rights education. Role play is an important strategy for inculcating values in children. Even the study of major literary and artistic works may promote human rights education, international understanding, and peace.
International-relations clubs, art, music or drama circles, and UNESCO and United Na-

tions clubs promote international understanding. Activities such as putting up wall newspapers and posters on current events, holding debates, writing essays and poems, celebrating special days such as Human Rights Day and World Health Day, and activities relating to population, apartheid, literacy, etc. inculcate human rights values and generate awareness of human rights.
Human rights education projects can be taken up in any discipline—history, geography, civics, literature, and science, etc. Since co-curricular activities complement human rights teaching in the curriculum, appropriate materials such as references and activity books are needed.
As discussed earlier, human rights teaching should permeate not only all school subjects but also every aspect of school life. There is no denying the fact that human rights can be taught more effectively through various cocurricular activities. The methodological issues are relatively more important than the content as far as human rights education is concerned.
Teaching methods are crucial in sensitizing and changing attitudes and creating a human rights culture. As the current teaching methodology may reduce human rights education to a mere academic exercise, it is important to bring field experiences into the classroom and take students to the communities.
Teacher attitudes and assessment methods are important in conveying key messages to students. It is also important that the practices adopted in schools and the classroom reflects a climate and culture of human rights. The flesh and blood of schooling—the relationship among students, teachers, and school administrators, and teaching strategies—need to be rebuilt on the basic philosophy of human rights.

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Human Rights Education in Indian Schools: Curriculum Development