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UNICEF Canada's Rights Respecting Schools: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Rights Respecting School?

UNICEF Canada's Rights Respecting Schools initiative uses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) as a basis for enhancing inclusive, participatory and respectful school culture for children and adults.

As a framework for educational improvement, the initiative helps schools address the whole learning environment with a consistent, rights-based approach. Children learn about the importance of rights and the responsibilities that accompany them. They come into early contact with the universal ideals of respect for oneself and for others, in the school community and in an interdependent world.

What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a universally agreed upon set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standards—also called human rights—set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. They are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere. With these rights comes the obligation on both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others. These standards are both interdependent and indivisible; we cannot ensure some rights without—or at the expense of— other rights.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. Canada ratified the Convention in 1991, committing provincial and federal governments, and other institutions to provide for and respect these rights.

For more information:

Where does the Rights Respecting School come from?

The Convention is increasingly informing the policies and practices of schools around the world. As governments progressively implement the Convention, a growing movement of "child friendly schools" is changing curriculum, disciplinary approaches and protective measures to increase children's survival, protection and development as well as school performance.

In the United Kingdom, UNICEF's Rights Respecting School Award scheme has been adopted extensively by schools throughout the region. The success of this program has attracted researchers to study and evaluate its processes and outcomes. Studies suggest that the benefits of cultivating a Rights Respecting School environment are numerous.

The UNICEF Canada Rights Respecting School model draws upon the model used in the United Kingdom but has been uniquely tailored to meet the needs of the Canadian educational landscape. At the Canadian pilot school in British Columbia preliminary research suggests that the Canadian model yields similar benefits.

Why Children's Rights in schools?

Not only do rights-respecting educational practices promote ministry mandated initiatives which support safe, inclusive, and respectful environments, but they also support educators to lead the way in ensuring that Canada's youth become citizens who understand, abide by and promote the protection of human rights and civic responsibilities in their communities and around the world. Achieving this vision starts with increasing the awareness amongst children and youth of their rights and responsibilities in the classroom. Students, teachers and schools share a unique opportunity to put into practice a vision for inclusive and accountable classroom for all children and youth. Teachers can provide children with opportunities to witness and experience their rights and responsibilities, and create opportunities for students to develop and expand their capacity to respect human rights and act upon their responsibilities.

Why become a Rights Respecting School?

What does a Rights Respecting School look like?

Schools which embark on the process of becoming a Rights Respecting School accept the importance of bringing children into contact with the universal ideals of respect for oneself and for others, in the school community and in an interdependent world. These schools also:

What are the benefits of a Rights Respecting School?

Impact evidence collected through Katherine Covell and Brian Howe (Children's Rights Centre at Cape Breton University) and Professor Judy Sebba and Dr. Carol Robinson (University of Brighton and University of Sussex), have found that becoming a Rights Respecting School has a number of benefits for both children and teachers.

Benefits for ChildrenBenefits for Teachers
  • Improved learning
  • A decline in absenteeism and bullying
  • Improved conflict resolution skills
  • Increased compassion
  • Greater inclusion
  • Increased global awareness
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Improved learning in the classroom
  • Fewer classroom disruptions
  • Improved school and classroom