How to Use 5 Child Rights to Evaluate International Schooling
22 November 2019
In this Educational Insights Series, experts from across the Wellington College group give advice, practical help and tips for parents who are keen to give further support for their children's learning. In the previous article Toby Roundell looked at the history and some of the driving forces that led to the establishment of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In today’s article, he outlines the scope of the Convention and then explores how a combination of five articles known as the ‘5 Umbrella Rights’ can help parents and teachers analyse international schooling from a child rights perspective.
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From the Pastoral & Safeguarding Lead / Steering Committee Chair – CIS Toby RoundellWhat are Articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? An article, in the context of a human rights convention, is a clause that states a right or series of closely related rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is made up of 54 such articles and each one is important. It is the synergistic quality of each article’s interdependent relationship with all others that brings resonance and meaning to the Convention as a whole. For instance, if we take one of the articles from the Convention, let us say Article 6 – ‘the survival as a right of every child’, we may find it is inextricably linked to other articles, for instance, Article 24, ‘ - health and medical care’ which, in the case of poverty, is then related to another article – ‘help and recognition from governments’ and to another ‘qualities and standards of living’ as so on. The interplay between articles reflects the complexity, on a micro and macro continuum, of the nature of the child’s existence in the world today. There are articles that address the child as an individual, such as the right to life (Art 6) and freedom of expression (Art 13). There are articles that consider the child in familial contexts – such as parental guidance (Art. 5) and adoption (Art 21). Moving more towards a macro outlook, the child is considered in local and national contexts through articles on minority rights (Art. 30) and social security provisions (Art. 26). Then at the broadest global level there are rights that address universal obligations in areas such as education, health and culture. There are also rights that place strong obligations over abuse, trafficking, child labor and exploitation. As we can see, the scope of the Convention is vast. All rights, however, contribute to a vision that pines to see the world’s children as well-rounded, happy, confident, knowledgeable and healthy human beings. Nevertheless, there is danger of falling into the trap of seeing the 54 articles as a type of shopping list to recite or a to-do list that is done to a child rather than an approach which sees each child as a complete human being. A good analogy here, is the pawn (the child) on a chess board being picked up and moved around the board according to adults’ whims. In truth, as adults, we all fall foul of this on occasions, but it can be terrifying when such practices become an accepted norm, or when these attitudes become embedded in the culture of organizations or even nations. This is why the mindset of a child rights approach is critical when looking at the UNCRC. Five Umbrella Rights The fulfilment of child rights is the Convention’s goal, but finding effective ways of achieving that goal, especially when approaching it from an organizational perspective, requires careful and measured implementation. One way we could shape the approach is to establish a framework. Taking as a premise that (i) each child is a human being and thus has equality in humanness; (ii) each child has a right to life and the right to development to his or her fullest potential; (iii) each child has an individual cognition of situation and a human experience to share; and (iv) each child has a right to their best interests being met through appropriate resources, we can draw links to five important articles from the UNCRC. These are called the ‘5 Umbrella Rights’.
- life, survival and development (Art 6)
- best interests of the child (Art 3)
- non-discrimination (Art 2)
- participation (Art12)
- implementation to the maxim extent of available resources (Art 4)
Intrinsic links to other Wellington Colleges in the group
SummaryThere are indeed other frameworks that can be added to the table and leg test that can further define how we approach implementing effective interventions and programs for children. But the essence of the Rights of the Child is well synthesized in the ‘5 Umbrella Rights’ and it is therefore an effective framework for analyzing educational provisions. As a parent, considering an international school for your child, or as a teacher weighing up a move into international teaching, looking at an international school through the lens of the ‘5 Umbrella Rights’ can help us to see whether the school really has the child at the center, or whether other aspects such as commercial gain are in fact taking precedence.
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