Last month marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its production in 1948 was one of the first acts of the newly-formed United Nations, tasked in the wake of World War II with upholding international law; maintaining international peace; providing humanitarian aid where needed and protecting human rights.
The UDHR was key to establishing a common understanding of the rights and freedoms that should be enjoyed by all of humanity and was written in a spirit of humility, global cooperation and hope that the future would be better than the past.
Article 26 of the UDHR states that: “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It calls on signatories to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations, racial or religious groups and to further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
It remains a pertinent and powerful statement that underpins the work of Amnesty International and others in human rights education (HRE). Indeed, our HRE model emphasises the development of knowledge (learning about human rights and human rights mechanisms), the development and reinforcement of attitudes and behaviours which uphold human rights and skills to take action, and the acquisition of skills to apply human rights in a practical way in daily life and taking actions to defend and promote human rights.
Amnesty’s last published report shows that globally 4.1 million people from 61 countries and territories were reached through our HRE activities. It shares stories of transformation from across the planet brought about by people learning about rights and how to claim them. HRE is a core part of some nations’ curricula and a feature of national educational policy. In other countries, it inhabits an informal space on the periphery of the mainstream.
But HRE is not just another tick-list item to be ‘embedded’ or bolted on. Rather, it offers a philosophy and a rationale for key elements of a purposeful and inclusive curriculum. Approaching equality, diversity and inclusion on the basis that all humans have rights gives a framework for exploring thorny issues. Thinking about safeguarding risks as violations of human rights enables discussion beyond general principles.
HRE offers a solid basis on which to ground an enrichment curriculum which empowers learners to become more active citizens. Amnesty youth groups were established in FE colleges in 2023 as part of a pilot project to act on issues of importance to them. At one college, local street lighting was poor, making learners feel unsafe as they came and went. The Amnesty youth group wrote to councilors and won support for their cause. When the lighting was upgraded, learners’ actions were clearly beneficial to the college community and, perhaps more importantly, students learned that they could bring about positive change.
In 2024, Amnesty UK intend to increase our partnership with Further Education. As arguably the most comprehensive form of education nationally, Further Education in all its forms is well placed to help people from multiple and diverse backgrounds gain the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to promote and protect their rights and the rights of others.
We would love to see HRE being delivered throughout FE across the UK. As a starting point, we want to hear from FE professionals, so that we understand where opportunities lie and what the appetite is to make our vision a reality.
We are calling on FE professionals of all kinds to participate in our national consultation, beginning with completing the survey below. We want to hear from teachers, assessors, coaches, managers and leaders from adult education, local authorities, colleges and independent training providers.
The survey will be open until 29 February and we will then follow up with a series of roundtable events. It is a short, multiple choice questionnaire, but it is an important first step in shaping our approach to the sector and its needs so that we can support you to deliver on those high ideals first given voice to 75 years ago.
Access the survey here