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NGOs and human rights education in the neoliberal age : a case study of an NGO-secondary school partnership in London

Mejias, Samuel A.; (2012) NGOs and human rights education in the neoliberal age : a case study of an NGO-secondary school partnership in London. Doctoral thesis , Institute of Education, University of London. Green open access

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Launched in 2009, Amnesty International's Human Rights Friendly Schools project is to date the most ambitious attempt to create a global model for rights-based education policy. Drawing on theories of utopianism, pragmatism and micropolitics, this thesis explores the influence of wholeschool human rights education (HRE) approaches for promoting human rights and school improvement within formal education. Based on participant-observation, semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis at both Amnesty and a London secondary school at multiple points over two years, this study examines how rights-based policies and practices are enacted through non-governmental organisation (NGO) partnership, and explores how the organisational and political contexts of NGOs and schools in England influence such projects. The study found that Human Rights Friendly Schools was primarily implemented through the school's existing student voice programme, and was used to raise awareness of school-wide rights initiatives. Throughout the project, HRE was envisaged as both a means to empower students and as a way to improve their behaviour and performance. However, authoritarian leadership practices and damaging micropolitical activity undermined schoolwide messages about human rights, and the human rights discourse represented by Human Rights Friendly Schools challenged elements of the school's behaviour management systems which teachers and students perceived to be excessive. Tensions between discourses of control and empowerment led to a series of teacher and student strikes — a destabilising chain of events that led to the dissolution of the Amnesty partnership. This thesis concludes that whilst the partnership ultimately failed to embed the rights-based approach envisioned by Amnesty, important lessons can be learned. The findings suggest that future whole-school HRE projects should provide stronger support for school-wide rights learning, address potential disjunctures between rights-based and neoliberal policies and prioritise inclusion of the full range of school community voices in planning and implementation. Such approaches can support wider school policies and development strategies whilst simultaneously improving relationships between teachers, students and leaders.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: NGOs and human rights education in the neoliberal age : a case study of an NGO-secondary school partnership in London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos...
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis: (PhD) University of London Institute of Education, 2012.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10020701
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