Student teachers' understanding of the position of values and morality in human rights applications, promotion and education
Eloff, Cecile Henriëtte
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Despite the existence of theory and a body of knowledge on the concept of 'human rights' that is based largely on national law, international law, human rights theories and human rights discourses, human rights remain a controversial subject within the disciplines of philosophy, law and education. In addition, higher education institutions may use different approaches in their programmes for pre-service teacher education which are based on a range of study disciplines. Consequently, student-teachers would be exposed to different understandings of rights (for example legal and moral rights), as well as different theoretical frameworks to human rights education. Therefore I argue that epistemologies and theories dealing with both legal and moral rights could facilitate human rights education and enhance a human rights literacy of student teachers. The study conceptualised theory on approaches which are the most suitable for the teaching-learning of human rights in teacher education. This interdisciplinary study creates room for dialogue (a so-called 'dialogic space') in terms of Grounded Theory to conceptualise human rights education theory as part of teacher education. The question to be asked is: To what extent would student teachers' understanding of the position of values and morality in human rights contribute to theory on human rights education? The study in hand is part of a NRF- funded Human Rights Literacy Project (HRLit Project) (2012-2018 (Roux, 2012). While the HRLit Project concentrated on identified areas that may contribute to the development of a epistemology and ontology of human rights literacies, this PhD study explores student teachers' understanding of and position towards values and morality instilled in human rights. The PhD study was conducted in two phases. Phase 1 overlapped with and used secondary data from the first phase of the larger HRLit Project (2012-2014). The second phase of this study drawn on self-generated data, explored existing content or approaches towards the teaching and learning of human rights, and analysed current discourses or approaches on learning in teacher education. The conceptualisation of grounded theory applicable to human rights education draws from the intra-section of those components of human rights education that may stimulate human rights application, promotion and education towards the realisation of human rights in and through education. The following components are considered as essential for human rights application, promotion and education: The legal rights approach encompasses the understanding of human rights as the inclusion of constitutional principles, legal principles and legal documents, procedures, rules and codes of conduct for learners and/or for teachers. The value-based approach involves the understanding of human rights which emphasizes morality, morals and values in human rights related situations. The cognitive approach or student teachers' reasoning about human rights, refers to student teachers' reasoning about human rights and explores people's thought processes on human rights and human rights application. The social and contextual awareness approach include student teachers' experiences of culture, or their awareness of society, which affect their reasoning of human rights. The action approach signified the nature of the application or non-application of student teachers' knowledge of human rights and values and reflection and/or evaluation of people's actions on and in real life scenarios. The researcher argues that all the above components could be vital for human rights education in teacher education in order to apply human rights in various human rights related situations in education. Human rights actions in human rights related situations could differ and urge the notion that student-teachers should be literate in human rights and human rights applications in schools. Looking at human rights applications only from one perspective would be short-sighted and could weaken the very essence of understanding human rights.
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