What does a right to education mean?

One of our readings this week focused on the right to education for all children. When people, especially teachers in international schools think of this as a target we definitely hit. However, this reading unpacked some of the deeper understandings of what it means to guarantee education as a human right.

 Article 12 (1) of the UNCRC states that: 

“States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” 

Welty and Lundy (2013) unpack this further looking at different domains of space, voice, audience and influence.

When we are giving space to children to learn, Welty and Lundy (2013) argue that we need to ask students what matters to them, we also need to ask if they want to participate in activities. At times as teachers we need to ensure that we are not marginalising or alienating students. Although (I hope) no teachers intentionally alienate students, I wonder how often in international schools we do this by seeing things from only our perspective. I know that I have not often asked wether or not students want to participate in an activity or feel like they shouldn’t participate.

From an assessment point of view, I wonder how often we limit students’ ability to share their voice. Do we only accept one form of assessment, do we encourage students to show diverse ways of knowing (writing, oral presentations, art works) or do we make all students submit their learning in the same way?

For audience and influence, Welty and Lundy (2013) look at how we don’t often give students an appropriate audience. Often our audience is the teacher or their classmates, we don’t have them present to someone who has the power to make decisions.

This was a really engaging, and short article. The most powerful bit for me was that we are not just preventing students from a pedagogically sound way of learning, we are breaking a binding agreement by not including student voice. Such an interesting thing to think about.

E. Welty and L. Lundy (2013), “A children’s rights-based approach to involving children in decision making”, JCOM 12(03): C02.  

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