Why teach equality and human rights in schools?
Why is it important to learn about equality and human rights?
Young people need to understand equality and know their rights, to understand both how they should be treated, and how they should treat others. Teaching these topics creates a safe place for students to explore, discuss, challenge and form their own opinions and values.
The knowledge and respect of rights that students gain from this, combined with understanding, respect and tolerance for difference, can empower them to tackle prejudice, improve relationships and make the most of their lives. In our ever more diverse and challenging society, it becomes more important to instil young people with these positive and open-minded attitudes.
What are the benefits of teaching these topics?
Educating students about equality and human rights empowers your students with learning they can use far beyond the classroom – in fact they will take it out into the school corridors and playground, into their homes and beyond into the wider community. The respect and tolerance it teaches will help you and your students to create a healthier, happier, fairer school culture, and could lead to reductions in bullying and other negative behaviour, and improvements in attainment and aspirations.
Why is it important to adopt a whole-school approach to equality and human rights?
To reap the full benefits of equality and human rights education, it is essential to teach the topics in an environment which respects the rights and differences of both students and teachers. Without an equality and human rights culture within the classroom and school as a whole, learning about these topics can at best appear irrelevant, and at worst, hypocritical.
By developing students’ understanding of equality and human rights, this can help to tackle prejudicial and harmful behaviour.
For example, in England, specific teaching about human rights is included in Relationships Education for primary age pupils and in Relationships and Sex Education for secondary age pupils. Both primary and secondary pupils also learn about human rights in Health Education and in Citizenship education.
As part of these subjects, in primary schools, aspects relating to rights education includes pupils learning to recognise if relationships make them feel unhappy, unsafe or uncomfortable. Pupils also learn how to report any concerns or abuse and where they can get help.
In secondary schools, pupils are taught about issues such as how to recognise when a relationship is unsafe, what constitutes sexual harassment and sexual violence and why these are unacceptable. They are also taught about legal rights and responsibilities regarding equality, online rights, as well as how to report and get advice if needed for themselves or others.
These subjects include some important teaching about rights, but the focus is on factual information about rights and the help available.