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Press Release: Amnesty International - Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Experts Back NZ Initiative On Rights Education

Two Canadian researchers have backed an initiative aimed at ensuring children learn their human rights and responsibilities as New Zealand and global citizens, saying research suggests it will contribute to greater participation and engagement in school, and improved educational achievement.

Dr Katherine Covell and Dr Brian Howe from the Children' s Rights Centre at Cape Breton University, Canada, are visiting New Zealand as part of Building Human Rights Communities in Education - a collaborative initiative involving schools and early childhood education centres, the Children' s Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Development Resource Centre and Peace Foundation.

Covell and Howe say that New Zealand' s new Curriculum -launched last November - is on track by requiring that "respect for self, others, and human rights" be "evident in the school' s philosophy, structures, curriculum, classrooms, and relationships".

"The evidence suggests that teaching children their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, quickly leads to young people recognizing the rights of others, including their parents," Dr Covell says.

"Where schools have been firmly based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the results have been improved classroom behaviour, better attendance, lower bullying and exclusion rates, and better standard test scores."

Part of New Zealand' s Action Plan for Human Rights, Building Human Rights Communities in Education is aimed at the development of New Zealand' s schools and early childhood education centres as communities in which human rights and responsibilities are "known, promoted and lived".

The Initiative has been endorsed by former Governors-General Sir Paul Reeves and Dame Silvia Cartwright.