Every child has a right to an education. That is widely accepted in Canada. It leads to debates about access, equity in funding, drop-out rates, and school fees as a barrier to some essential activities. Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides principles for sound educational policy in these areas. All of these are important aspects of monitoring how well children in Canada can realize their rights to education. In the last review, Canada was asked to address each of these issues and we look forward to what the next report, due in 2018, will say about them.
Less known is Article 29, which is equally important. It articulates the goals of education to achieve the central focus of the Convention: supporting children to develop their full potential. Education, says Article 29, shall be directed to the:
- development of respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;
- development of respect for a child’s parents, his or her cultural identity, language, and values;
- development of respect for the national values of Canada, of countries from which the children may come, and for civilizations different from their own;
- preparation for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples; and
- development of respect for the natural environment.
The CCRC takes Article 29 seriously. It continues to focus attention on how well children learn about their rights and how to exercise them with respect for the rights of others as well. A review of official provincial curriculum guides indicates some attention to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of Canadian history and teaching rights and responsibilities of citizenship. But there is only sporadic attention to the rights of children, and even less attention to learning what the Convention on the Rights of the Child says.
Workshops with young people continue to bring out a typical response: “We’ve never really been told about our rights, we need to know what our rights are.”
Watch for a Working Paper on this matter soon.
Learning how to live in a society that respects the rights of all people goes well beyond preparing children to find good jobs, which tends to get a lot of attention in debates about education. Learning respect for the natural environment has particular relevance today and is related to a child’s right to a healthy environment, described in Article 24. As one child said, ” There should be a curriculum on being a person.”
The CCRC encourages parents, teachers, school boards, political leaders, and citizens to reflect on what a child’s right to education means and assess how well we are realizing the educational rights of all children in Canada. The upcoming review of children’s rights in Canada provides an opportunity to take steps to improve how well we fulfill children’s right to an education.
(Quotes from Final Report, Shaking the Movers III, Child Rights in Education, prepared by Ilana Lockwood, June 2009. This is one of a series of workshops with young people, designed to allow young people to explore the meaning of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, sponsored by the Landon Pearson Resource Center for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights. Available at http://www.landonpearson.ca/uploads/6/0/1/4/6014680/shaking_the_movers_iii_2009.pdf.)