"What is a fair and good way of measuring human rights education?"

Antonia Wulff in conversation with Rosemary Bechler and Kelly McBride at the 2016 World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg.

Antonia Wulff Kelly McBride
14 November 2016

On Teacher Autonomy:

“Teachers across the world struggle especially with some of these demands that are presented more ‘at’ them than as a joint project of “OK. Let’s work together. How do we improve our education systems? How do we make them more democratic?” There is one piece around what is taught, what is our curriculum saying, what is included in our curricula today. And then there is another piece around how schools are run, what kinds of teaching and learning methods, what kind of school governance. What might surprise people is that often the teachers have similar reflections as the students when somehow feeling let down by the limited space for activism, influence and agency. Looking at education today you have an incredible push for value for money, for standardised outcomes that are easily measurable, that neatly fit into the League Table, preferably one that presents your country in a good place in relation to your neighbouring countries, and all of this means that individual teachers often struggle to have the professional autonomy that they would need to be really able to do the quality education that they would like to do.”

On Equity:

"I think we are dealing with a tension between the broader aims of education and allowing for all of those to be covered across the school day; the need to ensure equity across the board so that regardless of where they live, whether they are boys or girls, what language they speak at home, they have the same quality of education; and then the external expectations of being able to measure everything that happens in school – these things don’t easily fit together and this is where the public discourse about education often becomes a bit contradictory and struggles because we end up discussing very different issues. I think we need a curriculum that outlines the basics of what children have a right to learn – that is part of how you ensure quality and equity across the board. Then you need a system that allows for teachers to deliver that curriculum in a way that works for him or her as an educator, as a professional, and for the group of students. So you need to have that freedom to exercise your professional autonomy. You also need to be able to somehow measure and assess what you have been doing. Again I would look at it more from an equity point of view. I don’t want countries to compete in League Tables, but I do want teachers to regularly check in, making sure that all the students are still on board, and are getting the kind of support that they need… One of our main challenges is that the things that we really value are difficult to measure...”

On the Sustainable Development Goals for Education:

“The Sustainable Development Goals definitely are the road-map and it is super important that they are being referred to as the road map at the centre of discussions here today… The new agenda recognises that when it comes to sustainable development and democratic education, all of the countries are still pretty much developing countries, and what the SDG on Education is doing is not only guaranteeing the completion of free primary and secondary education for everybody in all countries, it is also actually including a commitment around education for human rights, for sustainable development, for gender equality, for peace that is really quite a revolutionary commitment. Because there is a promise that this now will have to be given more attention at a global level, it will have to be looked at as an integral part of quality education moving forward and this is really where the Council of Europe really comes in. The Council of Europe has done lots of good work around education for citizenship and human rights. It has done some great work on setting European norms.”


World Forum for Democracy 2016: Antonia Wulff interview in the Mediabox.

openDemocracy is at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy with a youth newsroom. More here.

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