What does it mean to educate growing holders and practitioners of human rights in preschool?

Year: 2017

Author: Tellgren, Britt

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Curriculum for Preschool in Sweden (Swedish National Agency for Education, 2016) emphasizes that an important preschool task is to impart and establish respect for human rights and the fundamental democratic values on which Swedish society is based.
The paper is part of a project in which the role of education for children's and young people's development as rights holders is investigated. More specifically, the project examines how teaching and learning within early childhood education and school give possibilities or constrain children's and young people's growth as holders and practitioners of human rights. This paper has a specific focus on preschool children (1,5 -5 years).
The particular purpose of this paper is to understand what content of knowledge and skills emerge when it comes to focusing on children's human rights in two different preschools. By examining on-going teaching and learning of children's human rights the study seeks to answer the question: What is the content in teaching and learning in, through and about children's human rights?
The project draws theoretically on a combination of rights theory, sociology of childhood (e.g. James, Jenks & Prout, 2012; Corsaro, 2014) and the educational philosophy and theorising of John Dewey. Firstly are rights for children understood as included in the human rights, which means that human rights vocabulary is used to categorise and discuss rights. Secondly, the project views children as competent and knowledgeable persons with full human value and dignity in the present. Further the childhood is regarded as a political phenomenon included in societal power structures, which influences adults' perceptions of and relations to children. Thirdly and with inspiration from John Dewey, education is regarded as a process of growth. In short, rights research in early childhood education has centred children's participation, child perspective and children's perspective (e.g. Pramling Samuelsson, Sommer & Hundeide 2011, Sheridan & Pramling, 2001). However, there is a need to widen the gaze and approach early childhood education as a site for children's rights in new ways. It can be noted that rights-oriented research on children under the age of three is very limited and that few studies have investigated children's everyday practices and lives from a rights perspective.
When these teachers are working with human rights in preschool it often takes different forms than in school and it is still a challenge in preschools to educate children as right holders and practitioners of rights.