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Document 8:

Case for citizenship education “renewed urgency and new support”

The case for citizenship education has “acquired renewed urgency and new support” Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres told the 22 August 2005 citizenship education networking function at the vicbooks centre in Wellington.

The Human Rights Commission will be keen to work with the 100 people who attended the citizenship education networking function, in the context of both the NZ Action Plan for Human Rights and the NZ Diversity Action Plan, to take the issue forward said Joris deBres.

Debates in the UK and Europe in response to recent acts of terrorism have “refocused people on the importance of citizenship, identity and a sense of belonging” he said.

The Diversity Action Programme adopted in New Zealand’s Parliament in August 2004 called for citizenship, values and diversity to be more explicitly included in the school curriculum, and called for a constitutional conversation in the public arena.

In the past few weeks, Parliamentary Select Committee reports have added further weight to the case for human rights and citizenship education – the constitutional review recommends citizenship education in schools and public education and dialogue on constitutional issues, and the report on human rights and foreign policy emphasizes the importance of a strategic approach to education on international human rights as proposed in the Action Plan. The local government inquiry called for encouragement to the Ministry of Education to develop citizenship education.

The Ministry of Education has also released a draft Values Statement for the school curriculum.

“Clearly the time is right for a renewed effort to improve citizenship education, and human rights is the appropriate basis on which to proceed” Joris deBres told the citizenship education networking function.

He called for “making the definition of human rights the starting point and foundation for citizenship education”. This is “since human rights enshrine the universal values that are the basis of good government and harmonious relationships”.

Citizenship education is not just about people understanding government, or even government understanding people, but about how we manage our relationships with each other individually and collectively, Joris de Bres said.

He cited the definition of human rights in the status report on Human Rights in New Zealand Today – which identified the need for human rights education in both schools and in the community, and “importantly also for government officials” to see they have regard to the human rights of citizens in their policy and service delivery.

“Human rights deal with relationships among and between individuals, groups and the State. They are about how we live together: about our responsibilities to each other, in particular (they are about the relationship) between the governed and those who govern”, says Human Rights in New Zealand Today.

The New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights, released by the Human Rights Commission in March 2005, picked up on citizenship education and human rights education issues in the status report in the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

Joris deBres is a Human Rights Commissioner and facilitates the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, which has partners such as the Centre for Citizenship Education (CCE).

He said the human rights foundation should be reflected in the scoping document on citizenship education that the CCE planned to circulate to Parliamentarians and others following the 2005 New Zealand general election.


Updated August 24, 2005


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