30 April 2015 – Education curricula in 15 industrialised countries fail to meet children’s entitlements to learn about their rights, a new Unicef report shows. The report, Teaching and learning about child rights: A study of implementation in 26 countries, also finds that none of the countries studied ensure that all teachers are trained in child rights and are familiar with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

“This report is a wakeup call for countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to take the necessary measures to ensure systematic implementation of a child’s right to learn about her or his rights,” said Gérard Bocquenet, Unicef Director of Private Fundraising and Partnerships.

The report, commissioned by Unicef and undertaken by the Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast, analysed the situation and identified challenges around child rights education in 26 industrialised countries and territories, including to what extent child rights are embedded in formal education settings and teacher training.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which applies in all of the 26 countries and territories, requires a formal commitment to make its principles and provisions widely known to adults and children alike. The 15 countries where children lack systematic access to child rights education in curricula are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Spain and United States. 

Twenty five years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most widely ratified UN Convention – much work remains to be done to ensure that child rights are widely known and implemented in schools, including in industrialised countries. The report highlights that a fundamental step towards exercising rights is knowing and understanding those rights. Implementing systematic child rights education in schools is therefore essential to realise the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report also shows that:

• Seven countries (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy and United States) include some child rights education in school curricula but fail to do so nationwide.

• Only 3 out of 26 countries explicitly and consistently monitor child rights education.

• Even when children learn about rights they may not learn about the Convention on the Rights of the Child or about key aspects of what it means to have rights.

Despite these findings, the research highlights many examples of how Unicef National Committees and civil society partners are successfully addressing all aspects of child rights education at different levels in all the countries analysed. This is being done through policy, curriculum reform, and teacher training, as well as by embedding child rights into monitoring and inspection frameworks and by transforming the whole school environment to become rights-respecting. 

“A key challenge is to ensure that these examples of good practice are aligned and fully integrated throughout education systems,” said Marta Arias, Unicef Advocacy and Policy Specialist. “The report will guide countries in this task and help them to identify the best way forward within to their national context.”

With this study, Unicef encourages all countries to take concrete actions to comply with Article 42 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and repeated recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child to each country.

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Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

Background

The countries and territories studied are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United States.

The research includes a literature review, results from an on-line survey completed by national experts in 26 countries and territories, seven country case studies (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel and Scotland) and a series of benchmarking statements for implementing child rights education in formal education settings.

To download the full report go to Unicef’s webpage.

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk