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Fear Of Children's Rights Education Misplaced

Fear Of Children's Rights Education Misplaced

Fears that human rights education for children will undermine parents and families will be heartened by strong evidence that it has the opposite effect, according to visiting Canadian researchers.

"Children who learn their human rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child also learn their responsibility to respect the rights of others, including their parents," said Dr Katherine Covell from Cape Breton University.

Dr Covell and Dr Brian Howe have been monitoring the impact of children's rights education in Canada and the UK. They are in New Zealand to study a national project aimed at supporting the development of New Zealand early childhood education centres and schools as "communities that know, promote and live human rights and responsibilities".

"Far from reducing respect for parents and teachers, this approach to education results in improved child-adult relationships, along with better classroom behavior and academic results," said Ced Simpson, the director of New Zealand's initiative.

Mr Simpson was commenting on fears expressed by the Maxim Institute that human rights-based education may undermine the role of parents and act against the interests of children.

"Experience in Canada and the UK show that such fears are groundless, and often based on ignorance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child," Mr Simpson said.

"The Convention on the Rights of the Child clear reinforces the role of parents and families, emphasises that action should be in the 'best interests of the child', and ties children's exercise of their human rights to their 'evolving capacities'."

"Responsibilities are clearly addressed by the international human rights framework, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and greater respect and more socially responsible behaviour is one of the most striking outcomes of human rights-based education."

New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993. All but two UN member states have ratified the Convention, making it the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. Article 42 of the Convention creates an obligation under international law to teach children their rights.

Although studies have shown little compliance with this requirement, the New Zealand Curriculum launched last November after extensive public consultation, requires that "respect for themselves, others and human rights" be "evident in the school's philosophy, structures, curriculum, classrooms, and relationships".


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