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Towards a New Improved Pedagogy of “Children’s Rights and Responsibilities”

In: The International Journal of Children's Rights
Author: Harry Shier1
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There is evidence from around the world that teaching on “rights and responsibilities” in schools is confused and ill-informed; as a result, children are misled and manipulated. Child researchers in Nicaragua discovered new evidence to support this view. An examination of the literature in search of guidance on how to teach children about rights and responsibilities found no consensus, but revealed eight different ways in which the relationship between children’s rights and responsibilities has been conceptualised: (1) Rights imply duties of a duty-bearer; (2) Rights imply responsibilities by reciprocity; (3) Responsibilities can be inferred from human rights instruments; (4) Some legal instruments define both rights and responsibilities for children; (5) Cultural and religious traditions may emphasise responsibilities, but rights can still be promoted in a way that is sensitive to these traditions; (6) Responsibilities can be paired with rights as part of classroom management strategies; (7) “Citizenship” can be taught as a contractual arrangement involving rights and responsibilities of the citizen; and (8) Children, as active citizens, can take on responsibilities, including the promotion and defence of their own rights and the rights of others. The challenge for educators is to develop a pedagogical approach that can encompass all of the above in a way that is appropriate, relevant and not confusing to children.

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