The first ten years of schooling in India, divided into primary, upper primary and secondary stages, provide for general education with an undifferentiated curriculum. All curricular areas are compulsory for all students.
Some of the major components relating to human rights are: the basic features of the Indian political system and constitution; problems and challenges of contemporary Indian life; the diversity and variety of Indian culture; the Indian social system and dynamics of social change; major events in Indian and world history relating to struggles for political, civil, economic and social rights, and the role played by common people and outstanding leaders; the world human rights situation, particularly the violations of colonialism, racism and apartheid; relevant literary works; the biological unity of the human species; major historical documents such as the US Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
At the upper primary stage the major subject areas relevant to human rights education are social sciences, science and languages. At the secondary stage there is a significant input in social sciences (history, geography, civics and economics) in science and languages.
All areas listed in the Conceptual Map are covered in the school curriculum in one form or another. The approach is cross-curricular and issues which are integral to a particular subject are covered within it. Thus issues relating to law and the administration of justice, to equality of opportunity, to civic and social rights and responsibilities, and the legitimacy or otherwise of violence by the state, are dealt within Civics courses at various levels. Colonialism and independence are covered in the History syllabus.
In the project interviews, therefore, it was not surprising that most students said that, except for violence and identity, all other dimensions were covered in the curriculum, particularly in Civics and History. Teachers thought the areas missing were violence and consumer rights. But there was a widespread consensus that most issues are being covered, though the educational administrators thought there was a need to look again at the curriculum, identify inadequacies, and update and enrich it. There had been no major studies before on the impact on students.
At present human rights do not feature in pre-service teacher education, but the topic is now included in in-service programmes, although teachers and principals considered it received little attention there. As far as materials were concerned, the major shortage was in the audio-visual area.
Students, teachers and administrators all endorsed the cross-curricular approach. Teachers and principals wanted a more elaborate treatment of the various concepts, emphasised the importance of the language curriculum and of an interactive mode of teaching and learning. Interview respondents were divided on the question of exams.
While some human rights ideas could be introduced earlier, the general view was that the age of 11 was the right time to start. It was felt that there are no major policy issues involved in human rights education.
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