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January, 2021

Why human rights education is so important

In 2015, the legal rules for citizenship education in MBO schools in the Netherlands have been tightened. Human Rights Education is so important, that there is a legal obligation from the school year 2016-2017, to teach them. In which schools must promote critical thinking and in doing so, pay attention to human rights. It is very important to be taught human rights because they always apply and to everyone. By being taught this, students can start to recognize these rights in everyday life. Thus start to act from this knowledge towards their fellow man. Also, with their knowledge of human rights, these students can better participate as adults in our democratic constitutional state.

Even more ideal would be if every parent would consciously teach their children human rights as part of their education. So that this is no longer solely dependent on schools. Also, for this reason. X-CodeX wants to give as much attention as possible to human rights. This also because older generations are much less aware of their rights as human beings.

Despite the legal regulations, human rights are hardly taught

Despite the legal regulations mentioned above, human rights are hardly taught in our schools. Education Minister Slob, therefore, sent a new bill to the House of Representatives on November 29, 2019. With this, the minister wants to tighten the legal mandate for schools to provide lessons in citizenship education. It is going to be compulsory for all schools to regularly give these lessons. But the legal description is not clear enough for many schools. Some schools teach regularly, other schools teach a citizenship lesson maybe three times a year, or even less. The change in the law should prevent this from happening. In addition, schools often find it difficult to teach human rights because of the diversity and backgrounds of the students.

The Dutch government has ratified several treaties and is therefore legally obliged to make serious efforts in human rights education. The Human Rights Board urges the government to do so. They find the importance of human rights as part of citizenship education very high. Human rights protect the dignity of every human being. You have human rights because you are human, no matter what gender, ethnicity, religion, or political persuasion you have. They always apply and everywhere, to everyone, so human rights have a special place in law. They are enshrined in the Constitution and are the subject of international agreements. As a result, a government cannot simply set human rights aside.

The ministry of education feels obliged to increase the quality of citizenship education

The Ministry of Education wrote to the House of Representatives that they feel obliged to increase the quality of citizenship education. In this letter it was written:

'It is an important task of education to contribute to the formation of pupils and students into involved citizens who participate fully and responsibly in our free society’.‘The starting point for citizenship education lies in the basic values of the democratic rule of law that bind us together, such as equality, freedom of belief and expression, and the right to self-determination.'

X-CodeX would like to advocate for students to be taught structurally and thoroughly. But in citizenship education their human rights education is emphasized above all else. We see this structurally going wrong and call on schools and the Ministry of Education to pay particular attention to this. This not only for secondary schools but certainly also in junior high. In our opinion, education in human rights cannot start soon enough

Amnesty has been a strong advocate of human rights education for years

An important part of Amnesty's work is creating awareness about human rights and educating people about them. The importance is high so that everyone is aware of what their rights as human beings entail. The violation of human rights by governments happens everywhere, also here in the Netherlands! People need to become more aware of what is happening in the world. So that together we can stand up against the countless governments that violate human rights. Amnesty does good work! Not only do they give human rights lectures to tens of thousands of students every year. They also give targeted training to lawyers who fight for human rights, also abroad.

X-CodeX is very pleased with the good work that Amnesty does, but also in advocating human rights education. Collecting documentation on governments that violate human rights and publishing it, is a task that X-CodeX is happy to take on. In doing so, we also hope to raise people's awareness. The more we know about our rights as human beings, the more we start thinking for ourselves, the more the world is going to change. In our human rights category on this platform, we will constantly be publishing new material.

Our society is changing and therefore education in human rights is more important than ever

In our country, the right to speak your mind, the right to choose your own religion, or the right not to be tortured are self-evident. But society is changing rapidly due to globalization and different cultures are living closer and closer to each other. Of course, the enormous rise of the internet/social media in the last 20 years has greatly contributed to this. Human rights education is, therefore, more important than ever.

But also because of internet, television, and social media channels, people are coming in contact with violations of human rights at an increasingly younger age. On the one hand, it is bringing more awareness of the horror situations that take place all over the world. But in the case of people who are highly susceptible to influence, this can lead to unnecessary radicalization.

Movies on YouTube about beheadings by the Islamic State. But especially the dark web with the horrible things shown there about child abuse, torturing, and killing people. More and more young people are able to find access to this dark layer in Internet society. Pictures of overcrowded boats with refugees, excessive and unnecessary police violence against defenseless people until death follows. Often too horrible that these situations occur in our society.

Education in human rights is, therefore, more necessary than ever. It is important that young people know their rights and those of their fellow man. Through education, young people develop the ability to understand and recognize all these violations of human rights. They learn how to form an opinion about them, and to express this opinion.

Teachers find it difficult to teach sensitive social issues

According to Jeroen Bron, coordinator of social themes at SLO, schools often have a too limited understanding of citizenship, see https://www.slo.nl/@1835/jeroen-bron/

Research has shown that one-fifth of all teachers find it difficult to deal with socially sensitive themes in the classroom. Jeroen explains that this is precisely part of the social mission of schools. Those are legally required to ensure social school safety. They do this mainly to educate their students about bullying behavior and what to do when problems arise. But unsafe situations can be prevented precisely by education in democratic citizenship and especially putting human rights at the center.

X-CodeX wonders if in education to become a teacher more attention should be given to educate human and children's rights. And to include in their education all possible situations and socially sensitive issues. Future teachers should receive training in their own emotional/mental development so that they lose fears of educate sensitive topics. When the teacher has awareness of himself and his strength, he can manage any situation and teach any precarious topic. Teachers are decisive in this regard. 'If they have a good understanding of the meaning of human and children's rights, they can work with this in the classroom in a focused and conscious way’.

This could eliminate the shortage of human and children's rights lessons in schools. Now lessons are often given about what the student thinks about current situations. But the basic values and established agreements such as human rights and their boundaries should be more the subject. In the classroom, there may be room to question these but from the knowledge of these rules.' Practicing human and children's rights is at least as important.

Who checks our government for compliance with our human rights and their education?

In the Netherlands, many institutions are involved in monitoring compliance with human rights. This is the College for Human Rights, the National Ombudsman, but also the judges supervise the observance of human rights. There are also all kinds of international monitoring procedures established through treaties between countries and members. Committees investigate how the Dutch Government ensures compliance with human rights, these all consist of independent experts. These experts handle the complaints and study reports and, based on these, give advice to the government. In addition, there is a European Court of Human Rights that reviews complaints filed against the government in court cases. The government must abide by these court rulings. X-CodeX also wants to monitor the government in abiding human rights and education.

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