Abstract ECER 2014
Getahun Yacob Abraham
Karlstad University, Sweden
Teaching children’s rights – what can we learn from Paulo Freire?
Today, the importance of school results is stressed in political discussions as well as in public debates in many countries around the world. As school results are linked to economic growth international tests, as e.g. TIMMS and PISA, have become important tools in these debates as well as indicators for change in school systems. In our presentation we will use Sweden as an example where school results in international tests have led to changes in the national school system which, we will argue, has impact on children’s rights in education in different ways. One illustration of changes outlined in the new steering documents is a stronger focus on “subject matter” emphasizing and requiring more and deeper knowledge in each subject in school where e.g. knowledge about children’s rights is more explicitly stressed. In this presentation we want to highlight some of these changes and discuss what they might mean from a child rights perspective? In order to do so we will use ideas and concepts from Paulo Freire which, for instance, presents an alternative idea to “subject matter” teaching and discuss education from a somewhat different angel than expressed in today’s national curricula and syllabuses. This example will be the starting point to a broader discussion about Paulo Freire’s theoretical ideas and concepts in relation to children’s rights in education.
To a large extent, researchers within the field of children’s rights in education are anchored in theories, which in different ways are, linked to ideas and concepts outlined within the sociology of childhood, which this presentation is an example of. Even though sociology of childhood has been and still is a fruitful way to study children’s rights in education specific educational theories and perspectives are claimed to be more highlighted and discussed (Quennerstedt & Quennerstedt, 2013)
In order to contribute to the theorizing of children’s rights in education we will in this presentation elaborate the theoretical ideas and concepts of Paulo Freire and discuss his thoughts in relation to children’s rights in education, with examples from Sweden. Apart from Freire’s ideas about “subject matter” mentioned above his thoughts about the importance of good relationship between teachers and students, giving an opportunity for students to express themselves, and creating an open climate for conversation in the classroom is applicable with the intentions in the UN Convention on the rights of the child. The concepts such as oppression, banking verses problem posing education, dialogue versus antidialogue, generative themes, etc (Ferire, 1970) are also relevant for this work.
In their everyday work teachers, instead of just trying to feed children with knowledge as expressed in the banking concept, it is preferable to involve children to come up with their thoughts and wonderings to generate themes that they can assess together with other children and their teacher. The dialogue with each other and their teacher could give children more opportunities to learn, than the anti-dialogic method where they are passive recipient of what comes from their teacher. These thoughts of respect for children’s self-expression, working method that invites for participation and enquiry are in line with the convention for the rights of the child. Taken together these ideas and concepts form our aim for this presentation: what can we learn about teaching children’s rights from the theoretical perspectives and concepts of Paulo Freire?
The theoretical framework is drawn from Paulo Freires ideas and concepts ( Freire, 1970, 1974, 1987, 1998) as well as from the sociology of childhood (James & James, 2004). These theoretical frameworks help us to analyze and cast light on further understanding of children’s rights in education. It will also help us to look closely to the Swedish primary school’s curriculum (Lgr.11) and other policy guidelines. Here the focus will be on the impact of the curriculum and policy guidelines on teaching children’s rights.
The study uses text analyses as a method. Convention on the rights of the child (UNICEF, 1989) and the Swedish primary school curriculum (Skolverket, 2011) are used to scrutinize what they provide on teaching children’s right. The provisions in the texts are viewed and analyzed in relation to Paulo Freire´s concepts on education.
The expected outcomes of the presentation are to elaborate children’s rights in education from Paulo Freire’s theoretical perspectives. The presentation will also contribute to the ongoing discussion of theorizing children’s rights in education. Our intention is to publish an article from this presentation.
Freire, P. (1970/2012). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Freire, P. (1974). Education for critical consciousness. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Freire, Paulo and Shor, I. (1987) A Pedagogy For Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming
Education.Westport: Bergin &Garvey.
James, A. & James, A,L. (2004) Constructing childhood: Theory, policy, and social practice. New York: Palgrave Macmillian
Quennerstedt A, & Qunnerstedt, M, (2013) Researching children’s rights in
education: sociology of childhood encountering educational theory. In British Journal of Sociology of Education, 2014 Vol. 35, No. 1, 115–132, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2013.783962
Skolverket (2011). Curriculum for the primary school, Lgr 11. Stockholm: Skolverket.
UNICEF (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. New York: UNICEF.