"Learning to live together": human rights education in Ireland, North and South

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Travers, Ellen
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This thesis examines human rights education in the school system in Ireland, North and South. It aims to clarify the extent to which human rights obligations and international best practice are being complied with in both jurisdictions and to identify what further steps can be taken to remedy any shortcomings. Chapter one contextualises the impetus towards human rights education in the framework of the evolution of the international human rights regime. It reviews the international literature and uses the Plan of Action for the first phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education as a model for good practice. The next chapter briefly explores the historical and cultural background, explains the need for some form of human rights education in both societies and gives an overview of the education systems in order to identify obstacles to implementation of human rights education. Chapter three maps the extent to which human rights principles have already become embedded in the school system, while chapter four considers human rights education initiatives, properly so-called, with a link to international human rights instruments and a whole-school approach. Children’s rights as a conceptual starting point for human rights education in the school system are considered in chapter five. The final chapter reviews progress and challenges before drawing some conclusions and making recommendations for the future. In summary, while progress has been made in relation to human rights education in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, significant challenges remain. These include the need for a higher level political and policy commitment which is sustained and followed through and a more explicit curriculum development which embraces human rights as a value base for citizenship education. In particular, recognising children as rights-holders, practicing human rights in schools, reflecting these rights in school structures and school life remain to be developed in any meaningful way. Experience North and South has overlapped to some extent but has diverged in significant respects. In the North, discourse and development has been more explicitly informed by human rights perspectives, perhaps reflecting the background of contested rights historically, whereas in the South, the perspectives of inter-cultural education have been more influential, reflecting recent social and economic change. It is agreed that North and South have much to learn from each other and that initiatives in human rights education offer rich potential for learning to live together.
Second semester University: University of Padua.
children rights, Ireland, Northern Ireland, human rights education