Collaborating with government to incorporate human rights education into public schools

The Albanian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) collaborated with the Albanian Ministry of Education to bring human rights education into all public schools in the country. The group took advantage of the post-communist transition period, negotiating with officials in the new democratic government to launch a long-term and ambi­tious process in which they would prepare young Albanian citizens to participate fully in a democracy.

In 1991, after 45 years of an oppressive and isolationist communist dictatorship, Albania faced a new world of democratic possibilities, with mountains of inherited political, economic and social problems and an institutional infrastructure ill-prepared to face them. To make the most of their new democracy, Albanians needed an educa­tional system that prepared its citizens for critical thinking and encouraged political participation.

ACHR developed an ambitious plan to integrate human rights education into the official curricula of all public schools in the country. The group took advantage of the unique political moment provided by the post-commu­nist transition to secure a written commitment from the Albanian Ministry of Education and Science to implement human rights education projects in public schools.

ACHR then began establishing pilot projects, carrying out large training sessions for a core group of teachers, adapting international human rights education materials for Albanian classrooms and developing activity books for every grade level. They also created pilot schools, where teachers and administrators helped train all of the other teachers in human rights and its history, international mechanisms and human rights methodologies and activities in and out of the classroom.

By the end of the decade, ACHR had developed special curricular material in many subjects for all age groups, trained thousands of teachers to use the materials, set up 42 pilot schools throughout the country and initiated a curriculum in the teachers colleges to integrate the teaching of human rights into their preparation.

For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.

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What we can learn from this tactic: 

Public schools can be important settings for building a human rights culture. In Albania, a group worked with the government to prepare citizens for democracy in a post-communist nation.

ACHR had an ambitious vision for Albania and used a political opportunity to turn that vision into reality. The government was in transition and eager to show the international community its dedication to human rights. (Albania had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993.) ACHR offered the government a way to demonstrate that commitment and help fulfill its obligations under the convention, and thereby secured its cooperation. It also sustained momentum by bringing in international support and educational experts.