Human Rights Education: An Elementary School Level Case Study By Megumi Yamasaki Ph. D. Thesis Completed June 2002 University of Minnesota Education Policy & Administration/Comparative & International Development Education Chapter 1



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Pattern Analysis/Categorical Aggregation


Now, the researcher examined all the interviews and put them into several categories after looking for patterns among the students’ comments above. She looked for emergence of meaning (Stake, 1995) and develop patterns among interviewees’ responses. Here she used her research sub-questions as the main categories except the first category, such as “The Importance of HRE.” Otherwise, they were the contents of HRE, effective methods for learning about human rights, responsibility, and actions based on the HRE knowledge.

The Importance of HRE

Thirteen students told the researcher that they thought HRE was important. Three students categorized it as very important, and one of them told the researcher, “I do not know.” This question was followed by asking students why they felt that way. The “why” question was particularly important to find out in what way students value or not value human rights. The researcher wanted to understand the reason(s) for the answers and to make sure that the students did not say that it was important because it was the right thing to say.

The most mentioned answer for the reason why the students felt that HRE was important was that they needed to know what was going on in the world and around them; how children were treated in other countries to make their clothes and shoes, and how it was important for people to understand where people are coming from and not to discriminate. Ten answers pointed out what the students could do if they knew about human rights. They were, “tell[ing] people about it,” “not getting into trouble,” “know[ing] how to respond [to the situation],” and so on. Eight students mentioned that if they and all people knew about human rights, “people [would] know how to treat people,” “people [would] make this world much much better,” “[we could] change things a lot,” “[we] don’t need any gangs,” and so on. The researcher felt that these students had hope for HRE to make this society better place.

Contents of Human Rights Education

Human Rights Definition. When the researcher asked students how they could describe human rights, all of them answered “the rights” everyone has. All the answers referred to “the rights” as meaning “what people/we can do and/or have.” These answers included “what people can do,” “rights we have,” “what all people should have,” etc. The researcher noted that these answers echo the tone of the UDHR preamble (Appendix A) and Proclamation (Appendix A).

From this very general answer about human rights definition, some students moved into more specific concepts of human rights as their definition. Six students referred to children’s rights. For example, human rights can “help people start caring about kids” (CRC, article 5) and “help kids to understand life” (CRC, article29). Related to that, 5 students mentioned that human rights is about “getting education” and that “people have a right to education” (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26). Several other definitions that students provided were focused upon health, basic needs (food, housing, and decent pay) (CRC, article 27; UDHR, article 25) and safety (UDHR, Article 3).

One student stated that “human rights means to help people who are [more] unfortunate than you,” which relates to UDHR, article 29, “Community duties essential to free and full development.” This student was the only one who defined human rights from the perspective of responsibility. One student could not give any definition of human rights.

Moral Development. First, the researcher wants to mention general comments regarding what students think about human rights. Three students expressed that people needed to know what was right and what was wrong. Two of them gave the same reason why they needed to know right and wrong, and this was not to get into trouble. If they did not know what was wrong, they could get in trouble. One student told the researcher that if people knew what was wrong, they “do not do wrong thing. [If they do, they] can go to jail for that.” One of them mentioned that now the student had “started to understand how people react to how other people treat them and discriminate [against] them.”

What Happens Abroad. Ten students mentioned topics and issues that have been happening abroad. Five students stated that it was important for them to know what was going on/happening in the world related to human rights issues. A couple of students thought that if people knew about human rights and what was happening, the world could have been a much better place than now, without violence. One student related the knowledge about human rights violations around the world and people’s daily activities, such as not purchasing any product which used child labor. Another student stated that “even though [human rights violation] is not around you, even though it’s happening away in Pakistan or Afghanistan, it still concerns us. Because we are here together.” It was encouraging to hear that the students were making connections between what they could do where they live and human rights violations happening over seas.

The researcher looked further into what specific human rights concepts students were talking about when they mentioned “right and wrong,” “important to know what is going on/happening,” and “needs to know the rights.” Their answers were full of child related human rights concepts and concepts that are close to their daily life.



Child Labor/Underpaid – Unfair Treatment. The most mentioned child related human rights issue was child labor. This topic of human rights involves quite a few articles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted November 20, 1989, entered into force September 2, 1990, Appendix L). They are article 3; Best interests of the child, article 5; Parents, family, community rights and responsibilities, article 6; Life, survival, and development, article 24; health care, article 27; standard of living, article 28; Education, article 29; Aim of education, article 31; Play and recreation, article 32; Economic exploitation (UNICEF, 1989). The answers suggested that the students know now (a) that children are not treated equally, (b) how their favorite clothes are made, especially like Nike products, (c) that children are working below minimum wage in some parts of the world. They strongly felt that children should not be working in the factory at all, and should be at home, playing, and doing homework. The story of Iqbal was the most mentioned child labor story. All of them read about him, and some acted in a play about him.

One student said that human rights means that people start caring about kids, treating kids good and giving them education, instead of forcing them to make shoes or picking stuff. The researcher could tell that this particular student was struck by the child labor issue and how children around the world were treated, even by some American corporations.



Right to Education. Right to Education (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26) was another part of the knowledge base that the students mentioned during their interviews frequently. This concept was almost always tied to child labor issues. Sixteen out of eighteen students told the researcher that they felt children in other countries should have the right to education instead of working in the factory. They felt strongly that children needed to learn more at school.
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