Rights-based Education: Teachers’ Attitudes

Together members: Children’s University Scotland

UNCRC Article 29 (right to quality education 

Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.

Children’s wellbeing at school and engagement with learning would be enhanced by a clear commitment to equity and getting the support they need. They need more chances to play and join clubs; teachers to listen to children; help with any problems or worries (especially bullying); learning about life, not just subjects; and everyone being praised and rewarded for doing well.”

‘What Kind of Scotland?’ (Children’s Parliament, Page 18)

Children say they want more chances to play, to join clubs, and learn about life. They also want everyone to be praised and rewarded for doing well. Children sometimes ask why their achievements from self-led and non-formal learning, such as teaching themselves the guitar or creating online games, are not celebrated by their teachers, or are somehow perceived as less valuable. Article 29 of the UNCRC demonstrates the importance of wider learning, emphasing that education is as much about developing the child’s personality and talents, respect for their own and other cultures, respect for human rights and the environment.

As the main point of contact for their formal education, schools can help children to foster a positive attitude towards all kinds of learning, both at school and beyond the classroom. They can encourage children and parents to see wider learning and achievement as an important part of overall skills development and emphasise the value of learning in informal and non-formal settings. However, children working with Children’s University Scotland report that the extent to which their informal achievements are celebrated in school is very much down to the individual teacher. Children’s University Scotland works with partners to inspire children to take part in learning beyond the classroom. Through its many partnerships with primary and secondary schools, Children’s University Scotland sees considerable variation in the recognition and celebration of wider achievements between schools, including within the same local authority area. Even among schools that do recognise and value wider achievement, Children’s University Scotland reports there is considerable discrepancy between those who employ a school-wide, structured approach to recognising wider learning and those in which it is championed by individual staff members.

While many teachers would like to celebrate wider achievement, some are hesitant to give it greater attention in school due to the limited extracurricular opportunities available to some pupils, and additional barriers some children may face. In situations like these, teachers may be afraid of highlighting some children’s achievements when others in the same class may not have the same opportunity to gain these. Out-of-school learning opportunities at local level also vary greatly across the country, with children living in rural areas often challenged by poor transport links. It is therefore important to increase the availability, accessibility and quality of wider learning opportunities for all children across Scotland.

Children involved in the Children University Scotland programme say they really like the feeling of their wider achievements being recognised. They say they feel motivated to participate in learning and to progress to the next award. They take pride in their achievements and particularly enjoy the graduation ceremonies that bring family members, school staff and partner organisations together for a positive celebration event. Understanding the value of wider learning can also help build children’s confidence and self-esteem.

Incorporating the UNCRC into Scots law would mean greater respect and recognition for children’s wider achievements in line with Article 29 of the UNCRC. Incorporation could inspire local authorities to ensure schools in their area are offering a wider range of learning activities on site, but also developing links with community organisations to increase the number of learning opportunities for children, and increasing awareness of these.

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