The author (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Law at the University of Warwick, as well as a project manager and research associate for the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the university.
In order for learners to become empowered human rights activists, they must be equipped with relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes. Learner empowerment therefore forms a central element of international human rights education provisions. This article draws upon empirical research to gauge the nature and extent of empowerment in English primary schools, and seeks to better understand the reasons for any deficiencies in its practice. It argues that whilst empowerment-related concepts may be encouraged to a certain extent, learners are unlikely to be emerging from formal schooling with the means to contribute significantly to transformation of the broader human rights culture. Two important barriers are identified: (i) teacher attitudes towards empowerment; and (ii) current government curriculum policy. The article argues on the first of these points that teachers are only likely to become comfortable and confident about such teaching if they are equipped with human rights knowledge, skills and experience in their own training. And on the second, that there needs to be a shift in government policy towards greater learner engagement with empowerment-related skills and relevant community engagement if the current trend towards didactic rote learning is to be reversed.