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
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
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