The right to education has become an increasingly visible feature of international educational policy debates and a foundation for state education policy itself over the last three decades. The emergence of Human Rights Education (HRE) as both a concept and an educational programme in its own right has been seen as a central condition for the realisation of the right to education. Successive Scottish Governments have expressed a commitment to the promotion of a society that is inclusive and respects, and realises, the rights of all people.
The publication in December 2018 of the recommendations of the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership outlines an ambitious programme for the further incorporation and realisation of human rights in Scotland including economic, social, and cultural rights such as the right to education. One feature of such a commitment, we might reasonably posit, ought to be the realisation and implementation of HRE within Scottish educational policy. However, serious questions have been raised in the literature about how successful current attempts to incorporate HRE within the Scottish education system have been.
The paper analyses the current status of HRE in Scotland in order to highlight a number of concerns with how well HRE is realised is within Scottish education policy and practice before identifying potential ways forward. In doing so, it will highlight three areas of deficiency in the current strategy for implementing Human Rights Education in Scotland. These are:
- the incorporation of HRE within the Scottish curriculum;
- levels of confidence and preparedness of teachers in implementing HRE;
- a lack of clarity surrounding HRE both as a concept and programme of education.
Further, it argues that the current political climate in Scotland offer significant opportunities for addressing these issues relating to the political ambition for Scotland to show leadership in the realisation of human rights. Finally, a number of steps that can be taken in order to improve the realisation of HRE within Scottish education and the necessity of doing so if the Scottish government is serious about both strengthening the realisation of human rights in Scotland as well as being a human rights leader are presented.