Teachers across the country have identified a pressing need for more human rights tools and resources – especially when teaching younger children, according to a national survey by the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).
A whopping 92 per cent of respondents said teachers place high value on human rights education, even though they already feel pressured by high expectations in a demanding curriculum. And 94 per cent said it was important for them to acquire more knowledge and skills around age-appropriate methods for teaching about human rights.
"There are not enough resources to use to teach students about human rights, especially at the primary level, which is where we need to start before bias sets in," said one respondent, when asked to describe the greatest challenges facing human rights education in Canada. Teachers also said they need help with strategies for addressing student concerns about human rights, as well as resources for teaching about current human rights issues in Canada.
"These survey results confirm a very strong desire by teachers to acquire more tools and skills to help students learn the value of human rights," CTF President Paul Taillefer said during an event today at École St. Avila with CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray and representatives of The Manitoba Teachers' Society.
Murray said the Museum will help fill human-rights education gaps – not only through its own content when it opens next year as a national educational hub, but through strong partnerships with educators at all levels. As a first step, the CMHR and CTF are working to create the first national human rights toolkit for teachers, creating an unprecedented searchable database of reliable K-12 educational resources on human rights.
"Canadian teachers are on the front lines of human rights," Murray said. "We want to help them, and we plan to do this in many ways. As a Museum, our goal is to facilitate dialogue, discussion and learning about human rights. Teachers share those goals. They are our natural partners."
At École St. Avila in the Pembina Trails School Division, students have been studying human rights and participating in a groundbreaking exchange program with a school in China. In a recent project, they created silk-screened works of art under the guidance of local artist Karen Cornelius, incorporating images of themselves with their writing about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The stunning results were displayed in Winnipeg's Millennium Library, with some sent to China for an international children's art exhibition.
"It's not enough to tell students to be nice, sing a song together and pretend you've taught them about human rights," said Principal Gordon Campbell. "It's important for them to understand that there are no simple answers, but we can make a difference by taking a stand for what we believe in. Teachers need resources to help them deliver human-rights lessons in meaningful ways for children at various ages."
The CTF-CMHR online survey garnered responses from 2,585 teachers across the country, including a high level of participation from Manitoba teachers. According to the survey, most schools offer human-rights education, but over 40 per cent of teachers cited insufficient resources to support teaching human rights. Teachers also indicated a strong desire for access to speakers with personal human-rights stories. A summary of results can be found on the CTF Web site.
In addition to the national teacher toolkit, the Museum and the CTF are partnering with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to offer a national K-12 initiative called "Canadian Defenders for Human Rights".
The Canadian Teachers' Federation is a national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations representing nearly 200,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada. The CTF's "Imagineaction" program is a school-community social action program which develops individual and collective responsibility in support of socially just citizenship.
Currently under construction in Winnipeg, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights in Canada. It is the first national museum to be established since 1967 and the first outside the National Capital Region.
Director of Communications
Canadian Teachers' Federation
(613) 688‑4314; Cell: (613) 899‑4247