THE ROLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION IN NORWAY: A Qualitative Study of Purposes and Approaches in Policy and in Upper Secondary Schools
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The topic of this thesis is the roles of human rights education (HRE) in Norway. This is a qualitative, interpretive study with document-and discourse analytical approaches to Norwegian steering documents, combined with in-depth interviews of teachers in Social Studies in a sample of upper secondary schools. The starting point of the thesis is the international legal definitions of HRE. The study further builds on work within this research field, with critical cosmopolitan theory and educational approaches to human rights as the theoretical foundation. The aim of the study is to understand and discuss the roles of HRE in the Norwegian school system, and to contribute to the theoretical fundament of Social Studies Education. The main findings in my study point to human rights primarily as a platform of values, and as an inclusive principle in the steering documents, while there are fewer indications of comprehensive HRE as empowerment to critical participation in society. Furthermore, the study shows that HRE also serves the role as a component of national identity construction, where the image of Norway as a harmonic human rights regime is constituted both for domestic consumption and as valuable political currency internationally. The teacher interviews mirrors these tendencies, even though it also shows varied interpretations of its essence. This material shows support of HRE, particularly as a bulwark against apathy and anti-democratic tendencies. Additionally, findings point to dichotomizations, where the harmonic Norway is presented as a contrast to foreign countries. Here, brutal human rights violations dominate the narratives, and are primarily seen as a problem outside national borders. This may make the student’s own context less relevant, thus leading to complacency and creating less space for active participation where critical reflection concerning the nexus between local, national and global obligations is essential. The findings, however, do not differ substantially from international studies on HRE. As in Norway, the concept is often interpreted synonymously to a form of democratic upbringing where the focus is on voter education and loyalty to national, political institutions rather than a comprehensive approach to learning for human rights.