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Education in and for democracy and human rights: moving from Utopian ideals to grounded practices

Dobozy, Eva (2004) Education in and for democracy and human rights: moving from Utopian ideals to grounded practices. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      This thesis is set in the Western Australian education system and centres on the question of how primary schools can actively foster conditions conducive to creating and sustaining education in and for democracy and human rights. In Australia, as elsewhere, there is a widespread acceptance of the need for democratic education also referred to as civics and citizenship education. The perceived lack of public understanding of democratic principles and practices has, in the last decade, led various Australian governments to commit significant resources ($ 31.6 million) to civics and citizenship education programmes such as Discovering Democracy (DD).

      This thesis argues that political engagement and civic learning is most effective when schools commit themselves to deliberately embedding a set of democratic educational principles in everyday practices. In contrast to traditional approaches to citizenship education that tend to focus on the operational aspects of representative governments, institutions and history, this thesis argues that education for Democracy and Human Rights (DaHR) can be effectively achieved through the fostering of DaHR in education. In this task the thesis draws on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is rooted in a range of basic values about the treatment of children in schools and elsewhere, and encompasses basic rights to which children are entitled.

      The study empirically investigates through up close observations, interviews and surveys the efficacy of pedagogy for civic and citizenship learning in four schools identified as places of strong democratic practice. This study was able to identify particular commonalities between the four case study schools that were conducive to creating and sustaining democratic principles and practices. These schools, although very different in their composition, were lead by principals who shared the view that children under their care were subjects in the making with increasing rights and responsibilities rather than objects to be manipulated, controlled and protected. The findings suggest that experiencing democracy and human rights in daily school life in a variety of situations and on a number of different levels can effectively contribute to the learning of the meaning and advantages of democratic values such as the rule of law, participatory decision-making and due process. It also concludes that there may be a relationship between parental socio-economic background and the possibilities available for students to engage in effective civic learning and citizenship practices. The relationship between socio-economic background and other structural factors including gender and ethnicity in relation to possibilities of civic learning needs to be investigated in a larger study.

      Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
      Supervisor: Bell, James
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/23
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