Fewer than half of Canada’s teachers say they have enough resources to teach about human rights, a national survey says.
"They don’t quite have the tools they need right now," Canadian Teachers’ Federation president Paul Taillefer said at a press conference announcing the results at École St. Avila in Winnipeg.
"Education is the most powerful tool in the ongoing struggle for human rights," said Stuart Murray, CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which helped the federation design the survey questions.
Of 2,600 teachers surveyed nationally in February and March, 48 per cent said they had sufficient resources to teach human rights. Most said they wanted tools to help them teach — lesson plans that are age-appropriate and geared to the topic they want to cover.
The survey report, Human Rights Education in Canada, showed teachers believe that human rights education is valued more by teachers, school administrators and the provincial government than it is by students, parents and community members.
The Fort Richmond school where the survey was unveiled, however, is "a shining example of the way our students can take on human rights issues," Taillefer said.
"You’re going to be changing the world," he told a classroom of 11- and 12-year-olds.
The students have partnered with a school in China. A girl with Haitian roots and her mom organized a bake sale that raised $882 for earthquake victims in Haiti. They’ve studied the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.
"It’s pretty important," said Jordan Perera, 12. "Some people in other countries don’t get human rights the way we do here in Canada." The Canadian-born Perera has travelled to Sri Lanka three times with his parents, who are immigrants from there, and has seen dire poverty along the way. "We were taking a taxi and people were banging on the window for money."
His class discussed the recent bombings in Boston, sweatshops in Bangladesh and hurtful remarks relating to sexual orientation heard closer to home.
"You’re so gay, that’s so gay — what does that mean? Stupid? Effeminate?" a student named Jayden asked rhetorically. "Kids know it is wrong." She told visitors that the school has a Charter of Beliefs.
"We are made aware of our potential to bring change," Jayden said.
"Young people have an innate sense of compassion for their fellow human beings," said the museum’s Murray.
"We’re helping to build global citizens who care for humanity. Teachers share those goals. They’re natural partners."
The cross-Canada teachers survey was the first step in creating a national teachers’ toolkit of human rights resources, Murray said.
Educators and organizations have come up with myriad human-rights lesson plans on a range of subjects, said Mireille Lamontagne, the museum’s manager of education programming. Finding the right one on the right topic for the right age group will be made easier with an online search engine the museum hopes to have ready by the fall, she said.
Teachers will be able to tailor their search for an age-appropriate human rights lesson plan on the topic they want to address "rather than having to look at 100 different programs," said Lamontagne.
The museum is expected to open in 2014 and wants to work with schools across Canada, said Murray.
"Our work with teachers is one way we can bring the museum to them," he said.
At the Manitoba Teachers’ Society’s annual general meeting later this month, members will decide whether to buy the $1.5-million naming rights to the classroom in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, MTS vice-president Norm Gould said at the school.