Rights education: A value-added learning in the pedagogy

A. R. Farrukh Ahamed

Getting an education is a basic human right.  It is also the same to get education regarding human rights.  So, getting human rights education is, no doubt, a basic human right. The right to education is now synonymous with the right to human rights education considered almost worldwide as a precondition of quality education.

Bangladesh has successfully achieved a record of almost 100 percent enrollment in primary education after a long time of its independence.  But this cannot be the making of an end to satisfy our aim of education.  Here at the juncture of development goals, we are now where no one can be left behind to make it sustain. Therefore, talking about the quality education after a long effort of a praise-worthy enrollment credit carries the justification to look for an education that is inclusive, equal, and free from injustice and disparity as well as ensures participation of all regardless of social classes. It is indeed a noble effort that must be carried out by all the citizens of the country, not a responsibility shouldered to particular officials or bureaucrats. The policymakers here are the moderators who can only play the role of integrators to maintain the whole mechanism from curriculum to school organization. The ground actors are the teachers and the ultimate beneficiary is the society as a whole.

The UN in its universal declaration of human rights proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Our constitution also endorses this proclamation with the same and equal spirit.  But with an unfortunate equation, it is not duly determined in our curriculum.  Almost nowhere in the syllabus has special attention to rights education, particularly human rights education (HRE) from pre-primary to tertiary level. Except for HRE, rights education includes citizenship education, civic education, peace education, law education, climate education, gender education, genocide education, etc.

However, HRE has distinct curricula set by the UN in the syllabus for every student as per age and class.  The UN has also set learning objectives and targets for learners in every class, such as students aged from 3 to 7 should learn classroom rules, family life, community standards, and convention on the Rights of the Child. The specific human rights problems in this human age are related to racism, sexism, fairness, and hurting people in feelings and physically.  Usually, students from pre-primary to class 2 are in this group and they should gain the proper knowledge regarding these problems and must learn accordingly.

Students in upper primary classes aged from 8 to 11 have to gain fundamental knowledge of human rights through their learning from the syllabus which includes the basic concept of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), ideas about the local and national legal systems, local and national history of human rights terms, and general knowledge regarding UNESCO and UNICEF.

The junior secondary level students who are 12 to 14 years old must learn about UN covenants, how to eliminate racism, elimination of sexism, regional human rights conventions, UNHCR, and human rights NGOs. Such learning helps students to be free from ignorance, apathy, cynicism, political repression, colonialism or imperialism, economic globalization, and environmental degradation.

However, students of older adolescence and the adult groups aged 15 and above have to earn a deeper knowledge of the Geneva Convention and some other specialized conventions on human rights. They should have a deeper understanding of evolving human rights standards.   To grow up as a learned citizen fully aware of the impact of genocide and torture is the motto of learning human rights in this stage.

The Bangladesh Ministry of Education decided to introduce a new curriculum from 2022. This new curriculum is decided to be prepared with the demand of 21st-century technology, especially in context with the 4th industrial revolution. As per NCTB, the new curriculum was being drawn up in light of the national education policy 2010, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and other factors. The education policymakers think to change the books, reduce the subjects and cut down the exams. It’s no doubt a notable initiative. The task of revising the existing curriculum and preparing a new one in its stead is in the offing.

Ten types of learning areas have been fixed for the pre-primary to Class 10 level in the new curriculum i.e. language and communication, math and logic, life and livelihood, social and global citizenship, environment and climate, science and technology, information and communication technology, physical and mental health, and protection, values and ethics, and art and culture. For the primary curriculum, eight subjects have been selected. These are Bangla, English, math, science, social science, religion, well-being, and art and culture.

At a glance, the new curriculum is going to obtain a radical change to the existing pedagogy of Bangladesh. The recognition of the upcoming change will be more realistic if it clearly includes Human Rights Education (HRE) as a well-defined distinctive subject.  If not so, then the students will be deprived of getting ‘rights education’, the widely accepted learning worldwide to get the students morally well decorated.

 (A. R. Farrukh Ahamed is a PhD researcher on Human Rights Education. Email: khosrubd@gmail.com. Cell: 01550006218).