Human rights education in an Irish primary school
This thesis reports on an action research study conducted with teachers and pupils in one Irish primary school. It focuses on human rights education as a framework for a whole-school approach to participative learning that promotes citizenship, justice, and equality, in the classroom. As the principal teacher in the school, the author sought to develop a more effective, inclusive and democratic learning environment for children. The study was a response to opportunities presented for human rights education both in international human rights law, and in the Irish primary school curriculum. The needs analysis generated research aims that focused on developing a human rights school, monitoring its impact, and evaluating the outcomes. The process included the development of policies, programmes, and methodologies to achieve the identified aims. The change process ran over the course of one year, during which the children were engaged in participative learning about, in and for human rights. The praxis based implementation model involved a series of cumulative stages of action and reflection. Monitoring and evaluation methodologies included questionnaire based longitudinal cohort studies, formal and semi-formal meetings, and the use of teachers' diaries. The resultant data was analysed and interpreted with the participants, and resulted in findings across four areas: • The role and function of the school leadership in facilitating, and implementing a whole-school approach to human rights education. • Aspects of the curriculum, and the hidden curriculum, including participation, time, and evaluation. • Professional development, including pre-service, and in-service training. • Behaviour, and the framework for accountability, decision-making, transparency, and responsibility in the school. The resultant recommendations point to the need for the school partners to consolidate the human rights approach through the ongoing provision of resources and time to participative methodologies, and the responsibility on the Department of Education and Science to facilitate and support schools seeking to encourage democratic education.