‘Education for human rights’ in schools through the development of student representative bodies: A case study in Bangladesh

Year: 2019

Author: Islam, Md, Khairul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Human Rights Education (HRE) has been paid significant attention among the policy makers, educators and global leaders for educating young people with desired knowledge, skills and values aiming to develop a universal culture of human rights. Including United Nations (UN) itself, United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and different international and national organisations are significantly working for developing a favourable culture of human rights education globally. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training is a landmark instrument since it provides a framework-‘education about, through,and for human rights’ to support HRE (UN General Assembly, 2011). While the first component is dedicated to providing knowledge and understanding, and second one to right-based teaching and learning approaches, the third component is dedicated to empowering persons to enjoy and exercise their rights and to respect and uphold the rights of others.

Recently the government of Bangladesh enacted ‘student cabinet’ (a form of student representative body) in secondary schools aiming to practicing democratic values, students’ engagement in schools and developing student leadership. This paper reports the findings of a case study that explored how HRE could be implemented in a secondary school in Bangladesh. Particularly, this paper focuses how the form of ‘education forhuman rights’ could be achieved through the development of student cabinet.

The research utilises a qualitative approach through the development of a case study with an action research component. One secondary school was selected as a case study on the basis that two teachers from the same school volunteered to participate in this study. Semi-structured interviews and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) have been deployed to collect data from the head teacher, classroom teachers, students and parents. Teachers and members of student cabinet were engaged in pinning and reflections on their views on developing new approaches of HRE in the school. Findings suggest that prior to action research, the student cabinet was not well known to general students and parents, and not functioning at all due to deficiency of teachers’ professional learning and institutional support. However, institutional supports through action research such as training for the cabinet members, instructions and cooperation from the head teacher and teachers, recognition and monitoring the activities of cabinet did ensure some forms ‘education for human rights’ in the school. The findings have significant implications for schools, educators and policy makers.