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Teachers: Citizenship: Human rights

Last Updated: Wednesday December 07 2005 17:44 GMT

Human rights


Thousands of French high school students protest over proposed government reforms of the French education system
Human Rights Day, on 10 December, marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Students draw up a set of Classroom Rights and prioritise Human Rights.

Learning aims
  • Why do we need a Declaration of Human Rights?

Classroom rights

Ask students to imagine that there are no rules in the classroom and everybody can do whatever they want whenever they want. What would it be like?

Some suggestions:

  • Everyone would talk at the same time
  • People would hurt each other
  • Stuff would get stolen
  • Furniture would be broken
Ask students to imagine what rules are needed in the classroom to stop this situation from arising. Make a list of their suggestions.

Now ask students to turn these rules into rights. Each right could begin "Everybody has the right to..." or "Nobody has the right to..."

E.g. From : Put up your hand if you want to speak...


Everybody has the right to be heard without interruption

Main activity

Prioritise Human Rights

Ask students to imagine what a world would be like if there were no rights or rules. Take the unruly classroom example and extend it.

Explain that a set of rights were created in 1948 to stop situations like this from arising. The 30 statements are called the Declaration of Human Rights.

Worksheet: Simplified examples of Human Rights
Members of groups supporting the cause of Tibet urging the International Olympic Committee not to award the 2008 games to China

Ask students to read through these simplified examples of Human Rights.

They are simplified from the 30 articles of the Declaration of Human Rights. Content that is not relevant to children has been removed. For the full Declaration, click on the link to the World Service website in the right-hand, dark-blue box.

Individually, students select the ten rights they think are the most important.

In small groups, students compare and discuss their prioritised lists and come up with a group top ten.

Extension activity

Girls' education in Afghanistan
An Afghan girl writes during Dari language lesson

Case study

Ask students to read through this case study about girls' education in Afghanistan. It goes against article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights - the right to education.

This case study is a simplified version of one produced by the BBC's World Service. For case studies about each article in the Declaration of Human Rights, click on the link in the right-hand, dark-blue box.

Students write the diary entry of an Afghanistan girl. They can chose whether to write about:

  • Her life without education under the Taleban
  • Starting school in 2002
  • Both

Students share their group's top ten list of Human Rights and explain their reasons for prioritisation.

Students read out their diary entries.

Ask students: Why do we need a Declaration of Human Rights?

Teachers' background

During World War Two there were a number of atrocities that were considered as crimes against humanity.

Many people, from all over the world, believed that there should be a set of rights, which all countries (or, at the very least, those within the United Nations) should work towards keeping.

In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - 30 statements that protect the rights of all people to enjoy a number of freedoms.

Some of them are:

  • to be free from slavery
  • to be treated equally
  • to follow a religion
  • to go to school
These are things that the UN believed that all people should be entitled to, regardless of where they live.

Sometimes individuals, regimes and governments are guilty of not maintaining the UN Declaration, and people's human rights suffer. The UN continues to monitor these situations.

Other organisations, such as Amnesty International, monitor situations where human rights are not being maintained, and put pressure on governments who challenge people's freedoms.

Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, nearly every government has signed up to one or more international treaties designed to guarantee those rights.

Curriculum relevance

Citizenship. Key Stage 3. National Curriculum Programme of Study

1b. The need for mutual respect and understanding.
1i. The world as a global community, and the political, economic, environmental and social implications of this, and the role of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
2a. Think about topical political, spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues, problems and events by analysing information and its sources.
2b. Justify orally and in writing a personal opinion about such issues, problems or events contribute to group and exploratory class discussions.

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