Human Rights Issues Month 2018

In light of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (December 10th 2018), we have decided to dedicate this year’s Issues Month to the topic of human rights and how to incorporate them, not only into our teaching but our everyday lives as well.

Why is it important to learn about equality and human rights?

Young people need to understand equality and know their rights, to understand both how they should be treated, and how they should treat others. Teaching these topics creates a safe place for students to explore, discuss, challenge and form their own opinions and values.

The knowledge and respect of rights that students gain from this, combined with understanding, respect and tolerance for difference, can empower them to tackle prejudice, improve relationships and make the most of their lives. In our ever more diverse and challenging society, it becomes more important to instill young people with these positive and open-minded attitudes.

What are the benefits of teaching these topics?

Educating students about equality and human rights empowers your students with learning they can use far beyond the classroom – in fact they will take it out into the school corridors and playground, into their homes and beyond into the wider community. The respect and tolerance it teaches will help you and your students create a healthier, happier, fairer school culture, and could lead to reductions in bullying and other negative behavior, and improvements in attainment and aspirations.

Why is it important to adopt a whole-school approach to equality and human rights?

To reap the full benefits of equality and human rights education, it is essential to teach the topics in an environment which respects the rights and differences of both students and teachers. Without an equality and human rights culture within the classroom and school as a whole, learning about these topics can at best appear irrelevant, and at worst, hypocritical.

Let us start off by sharing the Declaration of Human rights which you and your students can read and comment on in the classroom.

Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

Join us in contributing to an online debate, share your comments, ideas and lesson plans and let us know what you and your students are doing to make a difference!


32 Responses to Human Rights Issues Month 2018

  1. Bill Templer September 24, 2018 at 9:58 am #

    Here a version of the UDHR in simpler English (Simple Version 1):

    Here another (Simple Version 2):

    For example, the original UDHR text for Article 01

    >All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.< Simple Version 1 of the same Article 01: >Everyone is born free and equal in
    dignity and with rights.<   Simpler Version 2:: >Everyone is free and we should all be treated in the same way.< Students can compare the language of the original and how it is simplified. The simpler versions can be used with students at A1/A2-level elementary proficiency. What key word appears in all three versions?

  2. Bill Templer September 25, 2018 at 8:31 am #

    Here Eleanor Roosevelt speaking in November 1948 at the UN on the adoption of the UDHR, What does she compare it to in importance? Students can briefly learn something about her.

  3. Bill Templer September 25, 2018 at 9:21 am #

    The UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted on 20 Nov. 1959. It has 10 principles:

    It formed the basis for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), adopted on 20 November 1989. ‘Child’ is defined here as up to the age of 18.

    The full text of the UNCRC in original English: It contains 54 articles.

    Here a simpler English version: is another version.

    Still another site: Teachers can work with this site since it has both the original and a ‘summary’ in simpler English. This can supplement work on the general UDHR.

  4. Gergő Fekete October 1, 2018 at 8:19 am #

    Here’s a great resource from Amnesty International: How to teach human rights in primary school (ages 5-11). Thank you, Dragana, for the recommendation – some great lesson plans!

  5. Gergő Fekete October 2, 2018 at 10:47 am #

    Another great document on teaching controversial issues. This guide explores:
    – What controversial issues are.
    – Reasons for teaching controversial issues.
    – The value of a global citizenship education approach.
    – Guidance and classroom strategies for handling and exploring controversial issues.
    – Some practical activities for teaching controversial issues.

  6. Bill Templer October 2, 2018 at 10:26 pm #

    Oct. 5 is WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY. As UNESCO stresses this year: “World Teachers’ Day 2018 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that recognizes education as a key fundamental right and establishes an entitlement to free compulsory education, ensuring inclusive and equitable access for all children.

    This year’s theme, ‘The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher,’ has been chosen to remind the global community that the right to education cannot be achieved without the right to trained and qualified teachers. Even today, a continuing challenge worldwide is the shortage of teachers. …”

    What rights teachers have as teachers, for example, to Continuing Professional Development, or a contract and a liveable wage, not precarity,
    are topics teachers can be thinking about.

  7. Jules October 5, 2018 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks for reminding us Bill about World Teachers’ Day. Having worked with so many amazing teachers around the world it strikes me again and again how a job THIS important is often so badly paid.

    Surely this has to be one of the most crucial responsibilities anyone can take on – the education of the next generation? The whole of society relies on teachers and I believe this should reflected in their salary!

    • Chris Sowton October 8, 2018 at 7:26 am #

      Between 2010 and 2018 UK teachers’ starting salaries rose from £21,500 to £22,000! In 8 years! Obviously a significant decrease in real terms. In the UK increasing numbers are leaving withing 5 years of qualifying.

      • Julietta Schoenmann October 16, 2018 at 12:02 pm #

        That doesn’t surprise me! Shocking how badly they are paid…

  8. Gergő Fekete October 5, 2018 at 7:59 pm #

    Our GISIG Special Days Calendar also has a lesson based on Human Rights Day (10 December) with ideas to take away and use in the classroom:

  9. Bill October 6, 2018 at 8:42 am #

    As Jules notes: >the whole of society relies on teachers.< One key aspect of rights is the question: what rights do workers have? Students live in families with many who work, they soon will also be somewhere in the workforce themselves. How can they assert their rights as workers? Teachers also are of course workers. Below a link to a new lesson plan from Ireland dealing with TRADE UNIONS, and relevant both to the concerns of students and their knowledge about what it means to be employed in the economy -- and also to our own concerns as teachers, often not in any union, and in many countries underpaid, even exploited, and often overworked. This lesson plan was created by colleagues in Ireland, for students at mid-intermediate level and above. But it can be used with students anywhere. Take a look. It includes many good questions to get students (and in fact their teachers too) THINKING ABOUT WHAT WORKERS SHOULD HAVE AS GUARANTEED RIGHTS, AND HOW TRADE UNIONS CAN HELP THEM SECURE AND MAINTAIN THOSE RIGHTS. Ever more young people today take jobs that leave them in what is called >precarity<, and can be left with no work at almost any time. Many of our colleagues are forced to accept >zero-hour contracts<. Ask students what that means. As Jules observes: >Having worked with so many amazing teachers around the world it strikes me again and again how a job THIS important is often so badly paid.< See:

  10. Bill Templer October 6, 2018 at 11:26 am #

    Speaking of teachers’ rights, here a striking article on bullying of teachers in ELT, and practices of >hire ’em fire ’em< in for-profit commercial ELT schools: It is from the TaWSIG blog.

    • Chris Sowton October 8, 2018 at 7:28 am #

      Yet still there is a often a general fear when you start talking about workers’ rights for teachers, unions etc.

  11. Linda October 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm #

    This short video is good to use in class to show the history of human rights .. and how we still need to work on them:

  12. Bill Templer October 7, 2018 at 7:51 am #

    The Kavanaugh brouhaha in the US revolves in part around women’s rights and position in society. CNN has published a melange of short opinion pieces that reflect a certain spectrum of viewpoints in the vehement dialogue and dispute churning over the politicization of sexism in the US. >After Kavanaugh, what have we learned?

    Makes for interesting mainstream journalism reading.

    It may be an iconic moment stateside where ever more Americans wake up to the need for a radically alternative politics and ways to build that. To challenge the System, not just power games in Washington.

    This a very different view from a US Marxist perspective:

    Criticizing the very nature of the US Supreme Court and the current political system of dual-party rule.

    The fact is: it remains extremely hard for any progressive political party in the US at any level, even local in a city, to build a movement and win an election. Whether #MeToo can change that is questionable. Unlike in Germany, for example, the electoral system is geared against any ‘3rd party.’

    How GISIG might addressed this topic area of harassment of women and women’s rights is a challenge. In creating dialogue with students, questions about how girls and women are disadvantaged can be touched on. In the family, at work. Whether students have suffered sexual harassment. Hard perhaps to discuss, but sometimes an essay assignment, even anonymous, can work, especially if students trust their teacher.

    Many wives suffer domestic abuse. An extraordinary pioneering 16-min. feminist silent film (1912) against domestic abuse produced and directed by Alice Guy Blaché is the story of the mysogynist immigrant Ivan Orloff and his harried wife coming to the US. Ivan treats her like a slave, battering her, and encounters the active opposition of American men [!] to his brutal behavior, giving him several >lessons in Americanism.< Students can discuss the film, MAKING AN AMERICAN CITIZEN: We have an eLesson Inspiration on >sexual harassment at school<:

    (at the moment not accessible).

  13. Bill Templer October 8, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Gergö highlights Amnesty International in the Introduction above.

    Here a bit more from AI, four lesson plans on human rights: Teenage students may want to get involved with the AI affiliate in their own country

    Further LPs from AI:

    Lesson plans on human rights from a range of NGOs:

    Many EFL teachers have colleagues who teach a subject called ‘civics’ or ‘citizenship’, in some school systems ‘philosophy’ is a high school course. It would be possible to team up with such a colleague to develop some experimental LP and teaching on aspects of human rights as a trans-school discipline area at the interface of civics and language study. It could become a small school interdisciplinary teaching project, and worth action-researching what happens.

  14. Dragana October 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm #

    Today’s article, titled “Legal Challenge Made against Government’s Use of Child Spies” which can be read here: speaks of the UK government’s plan to use more underage, some even under 16 year olds as spies in order to gather intelligence.

  15. Dragana October 8, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

    The Advocates for Human Rights website provides lesson plans on human rights from K-5 to 12 years old:
    I found some really interesting ideas there, for example the one titled “Humans, human rights and you”. Here’s the link to the lesson plan:

  16. Dragana October 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm #

    An article from New Internationalist

  17. Leonor Marin October 10, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

    Totally agree with Chris Sowton, re teachers’ unions, workers’unions.

    In most countries , if you want to keep your job, it is not advisable to show any relation with workers’ unions. I shouls add , this is a global fear!

  18. Gergő Fekete October 11, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

    A short video similar to the one Linda shared:

    It’s a great TED-Ed resource with tasks to watch, think, dig deeper, and discuss.

  19. Bill Templer October 16, 2018 at 6:40 am #

    Here a very powerful video narrated by a human rights activist, Kristin, from Norway, who is active on the West |Bank opposing Israeli policies in solidarity with Palestinian human rights activists. This video can be shown to students, discussed. In the second half of this 5-min. video, she introduces the situation at the Bedouin Palestinian village of Khan al Ahmar near Jerusalem, now scheduled for demolition. She talks passionately in simple impassioned English. What rights are being denied, abused, and why? Kristin explains this well.

    Here a striking video on 15.10.2018 in Khan al Ahmar, very striking images. Students can comment on what they see. This is collective protest against bulldozers, with the Israeli army protecting the machines and their work. Kristin is probably there somewhere in the video, a large group of protesters, Palestinian, Jewish-Israeli and international.

    An eLesson Inspiration could be prepared from these two videos. Of course, many Israelis will reject that as ‘one-sided’. But it is the reality of military occupation and forcible denial of basic rights, for all the world to see. Many Israelis have ‘eyes wide shut’. A good expression. Ask students what it means. That is of course in some sense existentially necessary, a kind of political schizophrenia, in order to go on living normally while all this mayhem swirls around them.

    At min. 5:00 in the video, an older Israeli sings ‘We shall overcome’ in English. A famous song from the days of protest against racism and inequality in the United States, Martin Luther King and the 1960s civil rights movement. Students can be taught that song, versions on youtube: Here Pete Seeger singing the song in East Berlin 1967, with Germans chiming in: “we are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are not afraid today” is one of the striking lines. Here Martin Luther King speaking, with the refrain “we shall overcome” from an extraordinary speech some time before he was assassinated:

    • Julietta Schoenmann October 22, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

      These are excellent clips Bill – thanks for posting. They could certainly be used to initiate a debate in class around not only the situation in Palestine but also the role that the international community plays/should play in conflicts worldwide.

  20. Bill Templer October 17, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

    Join UNESCO’s #RightToEducation Campaign much material for students, ideas, take a look::

  21. Bill Templer October 18, 2018 at 7:31 am #

    Here review of a textbook, RIGHTS IN DEED (2002), published in Bucarest with the help of the BC. Many sections in the book useful for teaching about human rights. The book can probably still be found, maybe copies available. Someone should/could make a pdf of this useful book and put online.

  22. Julietta Schoenmann October 22, 2018 at 2:08 pm #

    Here’s a short clip about the life of Mahatma Gandhi – famous non-violent human rights activist:

    It shows how his peaceful protests inspired the likes of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela in their own attempts to bring about change.

  23. Arnold Mühren October 27, 2018 at 11:22 pm #

    ***Bill Templer’s insightful post of today to the Gisig Yahoogroup, copied here at his request.***

    Interesting is that the gunman Bowers in Pittsburgh specifically referred to HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society|) in his social media statement ranting against Jews, apparently since HIAS helps immigrants from Latin America, Syria and elsewhere to enter the US. Such as verbal support now for the Central American Caravan now in the news, which the Trump administration is determined to keep from entering the US (see below).

    Last week on Saturday, Oct. 20, HIAS initiated an event where some 300 synagogues across the US organized a ‘help the immigrant’ special day. Was it perhaps this that triggered Bowers to attack the synagogue in Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh? Five days ago HIAS also issued a statement in support of the Central American Caravan, which Bowers may have been aware of, since he apparently hates HIAS, there is social media evidence. The FBI has clearly taken note of that. Most of you probably never heard of this organization.

    Intriguingly, we may speculate: this was perhaps not just a brutal antisemitic attack on Jews in Pittsburgh – but on Jews as a community giving aid and advice to immigrants, refugees seeking asylum and wishing to come to the US, personified in the work of HIAS in many places (as in Greece, where HIAS is quite active on Lesbos with migrants there, Syrian refugees, see their website, section ‘Where We Work’). HIAS is among the oldest Jewish organizations in the US (founded 1881), and also perhaps the oldest such immigrant aid society in the country. Website:

    Mark Hetfield, director of HIAS, was interviewed Oct. 27 by CNN from min. 3:00: Very striking even moving what he has to say. Also about the work today of HIAS, which is largely helping non-Jewish refugees worldwide, especially those fleeing war and violence, to settle elsewhere, including Pittsburgh. Core Jewish ethics in action. Hetfield says important things about hate speech beyond antisemitism, well worth pondering in GISIG and the ongoing interest and concern regarding Human Flow and the plight of migrants.

    HIAS statement on Pittsburgh synagogue bloodbath issued today 27 Oct.

    HIAS statement on the Central American Caravan heading for the US-Mexico border: It raises the question of people’s right to asylum See also this HIAS photo, iconic:


  24. Bill Templer November 1, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    An excellent book published in 2009 with 12 short stories by well-known children’s authors is FREE? STORIES CELEBRATING HUMAN RIGHTS (2009) See You can find inexpensive copies on

    Many of these short stories (along with one striking poem and an interview-based text) and how to teach them to younger learners in EFL is discussed by Janice Bland in her article “From a Global Language to Global Citizenship: Stories for Tolerance and Worldmindedness,” In Christiane Lütge (Ed.), GLOBAL EDUCATION: PERSPECTIVES FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING (Vienna: LIT VERLAG 2015), pp. 129-154. See Janice’s chapter is a superb essay on how to teach six stories dealing with human rights issues, both theoretically and in terms of practical approaches and activities suggested.

    Prof. Lütge has a >Call for Papers<

    for a conference at U of Munich the end of March 2019, just before the IATEFL L’pool conference. It would be great if some colleagues associated with GISIG could attend or present.

  25. Bill Templer November 2, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

    A “Crisis Point” for Human Rights Defenders

    Globally, the people working to defend our human rights are increasingly under attack, reaching a “crisis point.”

    More than 150 human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world gathered in Paris this week to set out a vision for the enduring fight for human rights at the second Human Rights Defenders World Summit.( )

    Yet governments have fallen short on their commitments as HRDs continue to be killed around the world with impunity.


  1. Human Rights Issues Month – How to share? | Global Issues SIG - September 30, 2018

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