School-based understanding of human rights in four countries: A commonwealth study


The results of a three-year Commonwealth project based on secondary school surveys in Botswana, India, Northern Ireland in Britain and Zimbabwe, backed up by longer interviews and curricular and materials audits show that: in only one of the systems surveyed (in India) was there a reasonably exact reflection of human rights concepts in school curricula; that students generally can distinguish between what should happen in the administration of justice and unlawful action by police or public; that they expect fair employment practices even though in Northern Ireland and Zimbabwe the majority think that a person most like an appointing group will get a job; that they are generally anxious about violence; that many are ignorant of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In general older secondary school students have more sophisticated attitudes, but it is not clear that this is a result of their school experience, since radio and TV are rated highly for the quantity and helpfulness of their human rights material. In general the Indian responses showed the strongest and the Botswana responses the weakest grasp of basic concepts. Gender differences, and in Northern Ireland religious and communal differences, were significant in some responses. The project as a whole concluded that Commonwealth countries need to locate precisely where in national curricula their human rights commitments are reflected; that there is a special opportunity to strengthen human rights education in schools as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998; and that Commonwealth cooperation should be enhanced.


Educational Paper No. 22, DFID, London, UK, ISBN 1 86192 080 6, 62 pp.

School-based understanding of human rights in four countries: A commonwealth study

Published 1 January 1997