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Identifying children’s, young people’s and teachers’ perspectives and experiences of school-based human rights education

Project Description

We are seeking a highly motivated person to undertake a research project to explore how children and young people experience Human Rights Education (HRE) in schools. The research will apply a theoretical framework for understanding school-based HRE, as outlined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights Education and Training (UN, 2011), which considers HRE encompasses education ‘about’, ‘through’ and ‘for’ human rights. Consideration will also be given to practitioners’ perspectives on what constitutes good practice in relation to children and young peoples’ HRE. This studentship offers the opportunity to engage with a team of experienced researchers and academics with expertise in the field of children’s voice and human rights education.

The UK has an obligation to provide HRE to all children and young people, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UN, 1989) and the United Nations World Programme for Human Rights Education and Training (UN, 2006; UN, 2012; UN 2014). The first phase of the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005–2009) asserted that HRE should be integrated into primary and secondary schools (UN, 2006, 1). The UN acknowledged limited progression in this area and the third and current phase of the World programme for HRE (2015-19) (UN, 2014) focuses on strengthening the implementation of the first phase. More recently, the UN committee on the Rights of the Child also stated that the UK should ‘Make children’s rights education mandatory’ (UN, 2016, 19). The UK’s failure to meet its obligation to provide HRE in a consistent way means that school-based HRE policies and practices within the UK vary from school to school and from practitioner to practitioner, and children’s school-based HRE experiences are inequitable (Robinson, 2016).

Empirical evidence suggests that children and young people have limited understanding of their human rights (CRAE, 2016, Lyle, 2014) and that teachers in England (Struthers, 2016) and Scotland (BEMIS, 2013, Cassidy, Bruner and Webster, 214; Struthers, 2016) receive little training or education on HRE and lack knowledge and confidence in this area.

The project will review UK policies relating to requirements for school-based HRE, giving consideration to how such policies comply (or otherwise) with the UN obligations to provide school-based HRE. It will also aim to enhance understanding about:

children and young people’s knowledge and perceptions around human rights and how these rights apply to themselves and others.
children and young people’s perspectives of their experiences of school-based HRE education (in the context of HRE about, through and for human rights).
practitioners’ perceptions of what school-based HRE should encompass and what constitutes effective school-based HRE practices.
The study will generate new understandings about effective policies and school-based HRE practices suitable for children and young people, and the challenges around making them a reality for all pupils.

Funding Notes

This part-time PhD studentship is part-funded by the University of Brighton (UoB). The studentship will cover 50% part-time PhD student fees over six years (2019–20 fees for UK/EU part-time PhD student will be £2,164, with likely small increases annually due to inflation). The successful student will be required to match fund the remaining 50% of these fees for six years and pay full fees if the PhD is not complete within the six-year period. The studentship does not cover any costs towards living expenses.

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