Human Rights Review

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 213–230 | Cite as

An Exploratory Study of Human Rights Knowledge: a Sample of Kindergarten and Elementary School Pre-service Teachers in Spain

  • Claudia MessinaEmail author
  • Liliana Jacott


This study aims to explore the level of information and knowledge 150 Spanish kindergarten and elementary school teachers in pre-service training have about human rights. We compared two groups of students: students with no specific training and students with specific training (the students with specific training study with the new training teaching programme that includes a compulsory subject related to citizenship education). The contents are organized around three thematic areas. Human rights are included in the first area ‘Basic concepts to promote equality and participation in Elementary Education’; the other two areas are: ‘Learning to participate at Elementary School’ and ‘Building a civil school that promotes equality and participation at Elementary School’. It is a one semester subject with 3 h of teaching per week. The main hypothesis is that a specific training on human rights will lead to an important improvement not only in student’s level of knowledge but also in the way they categorize this specific content. We have administered a questionnaire designed for the study. In general, our results show that students of both groups have a basic and limited knowledge about human rights. The group with specific training shows a higher level of knowledge than the other group and a different way of organizing it. This would go in the direction of other studies of supporting and reinforcing the inclusion of specific training on human rights during the initial teacher training programmes at the university.


Citizenship education Human rights education Teacher training Primary education 



The research was supported with funds from Mº de Innovación y Ciencia (SEJ2007-64719/Educ). Preliminary results were presented at the VI International Conference of Psychology and Education, Valladolid (Spain), March 2011


  1. Amnistía Internacional (2008) Las Universidades Españolas, a la cola de Europa en formación obligatoria en Derechos Humanos (Retrieved from:
  2. Amnistía Internacional (2003) Educación en Derechos Humanos: asignatura suspensa (Retrieved from: humanos/documentos/)
  3. Banks, J. (2008) Diversity, Group Identity, and Citizenship Education in a Global Age, Educational Researcher, 37(3), 129–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bustamante, J. (2007) Los nuevos derechos humanos: gobierno electrónico e informática comunitaria, Revista Venezolana de Información, Tecnología y Conocimiento, Año 4, nº2, 13–27Google Scholar
  5. Carlson, M. & Listhaug, O. (2007) Citizens’ perceptions of human rights practices: An analysis of 55 countries, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 44, nº4, 465–483Google Scholar
  6. Clémence, A., Doise, W., de Rosa, A.& González, L. (1995) La representation sociale de droits de l’homme: Une recherché international sur l’étendue et les limites de l’universalité, Journal International de Psychologie, 30 (2), 181–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Doise, W., Spini, D. &Clémence, A. (1999) Human rights studied as social representations in a cross-national context, European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 1–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Donnelly, J. (1982) Human Rights and Human Dignity: An Analytic Critic of Non-Western Conceptions of Human Rights. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 76, Nº2 (Junio), pp. 303–316Google Scholar
  9. Escámez Sánchez, J. (2004) La educación para la promoción de los derechos humanos de la tercera generación. Encounters on Education, Vol. 5, 81–100Google Scholar
  10. Fernández, A. &Jenker, S. (eds.) (1995) InternationalesErklärungen und ÜbereinkommenzumRecht auf Bildung und zurFreiheit der Erziehung. Frankfurt am Main: Info-3Google Scholar
  11. González Gallego, I. (2004) Algunas reflexiones sobre la Educación Cívica en la historia. Comunicación presentada en el Simposio I. D. CCSS. Almería, España. (Retrieved from:í/gonzález-gallego—Retrieved on 22th January 2013)
  12. Hart Research Associates (1997) Final Adult Survey Data. (Retrieved from:
  13. Hathaway, O. (2007) Why do countries commit to Human Rights Treaties? Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 51, (4), 588–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kaur-Ballagan, K., Castell, S., Brough, K. &Friemert, H. (2009) Public perceptions of human rights. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission.Google Scholar
  15. Lapayese, Y. (2005) National Initiatives in Human Rights Education: The Implementation of Human Rights Education Policy Reform in Schools, en J. Zajda (ed), International Handbook on Globalization, Education and Policy Research, 389–404, the Netherlands: SpringerGoogle Scholar
  16. Ley 14/1970, de 4 de agosto, General de Educación y Financiamiento de la Reforma Educativa. Boletín Oficial del Estado núm. 187, 4 de agosto de 1970, 12525–12546Google Scholar
  17. Ley Orgánica 1/1990, de 3 de octubre, de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo. Boletín Oficial del Estado núm. 238, 28927–28942Google Scholar
  18. Ley Orgánica 10/2002, de 23 de diciembre, de Calidad de la Educación. Boletín Oficial del Estado núm. 307, 24 de diciembre de 2002, 45188–45220Google Scholar
  19. Ley Orgánica 2/2006, de 3 de mayo, de Educación. Boletín Oficial del Estado núm. 106, 4 de mayo de 2006, 17158–17207Google Scholar
  20. Lister, I. (1984) Teaching and learning about human rights, Strasbourg: Council of EuropeGoogle Scholar
  21. Lister, R. (2007) Inclusive Citizenship: Realizing the Potential, Citizenship Studies, Vol. 11, nº.1, 49–61Google Scholar
  22. Lohrenscheit, C. (2002) International Approaches in Human Rights Education, International Review of Education, 48(3–4), 173–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lucas, A. (2009) Teaching about Human Rights in the Elementary Classroom using the book: “A life like mine: How children live around the world”, The Social Studies, March–April, 79–84Google Scholar
  24. Mayoral, V. (2007) Educación para la ciudadanía. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, nº 41/3, 220Google Scholar
  25. Nussbaum, M.C. (2010) Not for Profit: Why democracy needs the humanities. New Jersey: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  26. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) (2009) Human Rights Education in the School Systems of Europe, Central Asia and North America: A Compendium of Good Practice. Warsaw: OSCEGoogle Scholar
  27. Osler, A. (2011) Teacher interpretation of citizenship education: national identity, cosmopolitan ideals, and political realities. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43:1, 1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Osler, A. (2008) Citizenship education and the Ajegbo report: re-imagining a cosmopolitan nation. London Review of Education, vol. 6, nº 1, 11–25Google Scholar
  29. Osler, A. (ed.) (2005) Teachers, human rights and diversity, London: Trentham BooksGoogle Scholar
  30. Osler, A. & Starkey, H. (2006) Education for Democratic Citizenship: a review of research, policy and practice 1995–2005, Research Papers in Education, vol. 21(4), pp.433–466Google Scholar
  31. Osler, A. & Starkey, H. (1994) Fundamental issues in teacher education for human rights: A European perspective, Journal of Moral Education, Vol. 23, 349–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Passini, S. and Emiliani, F. (2009) Social representations of rights and duties of young Italians and Albanians, Swiss Journal of Psychology, 68(2), 89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sadio Ramos, F. (2010) “Human Rights and Citizenship Education” and in-service teacher training: an experience. Exedra, 3, 91–123Google Scholar
  34. Sherrod, L. (2008) Adolescents’ perceptions of Rights as Reflected in their views of Citizenship, Journal of Social Studies, Vol. 64, nº 4, 771–790Google Scholar
  35. Smith, R. (2003) Making the grade: the UK, citizenship and human rights education, Education and the Law, Vol. 15, nº 2/3, 135–147Google Scholar
  36. Sommer, G., Stellmacher, J. & Christ, O. (2004) Cognitive representations of human rights in a cross national comparison—Non published manuscriptGoogle Scholar
  37. Starkey, H. (2008) Diversity and Citizenship in the Curriculum, London Review of Education, vol. 6(1), 5–10Google Scholar
  38. Stellmacher, J. & Sommer, G. (2008) Human Rights Education. An evaluation of University Seminars, Social Psychology 39 (1), 70–80Google Scholar
  39. Stellmacher, J., Sommer, G. & Brähler, E. (2005) The Cognitive Representation of Human rights: Knowledge, Importance, and Commitment, Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 11 (3), 267–292Google Scholar
  40. Tibbitts, F. (2002) Understanding what we do: Emerging models for human rights education, International Review of Education, 48 (3–4), 159–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Torney-Purta, J., Wilkenfeld, B. & Barber, C. (2008) How adolescents in 27 countries Understand, Support, and Practice Human Rights, Journal of Social Studies, Vol. 64, nº 4, 857–880Google Scholar
  42. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), (1994) Resolution 49/184 of 23rd December 1994Google Scholar
  43. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), (2000) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the mid-term global evaluation of the progress made towards the achievement of the objectives of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004) A/55/360 of 7th September 2000Google Scholar
  44. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), (2002) Resolution 57/254 of 20th December 2002Google Scholar
  45. United Nations General Assembly. Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR). Economic and Social Council (2003). Study on the follow-up to the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004). Report of the High Commissioner. E/CN.4/2003/101. 28th February 2003Google Scholar
  46. United Nations General Assembly. Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) Economic and Social Council (2004). Promotion and protection of Human Rights: Information and Education. United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004): Report on achievements and shortcomings of the Decade and on future United Nations activities in this area. Report of the High Commissioner (E/CN.4/2004/93). 25th February 2004Google Scholar
  47. Vasak, K. (1978) Les dimensions internationals des droits de lhomme, UNESCO (The international dimensions of Human Rights)Google Scholar
  48. Vázquez, G. (2003) Sociedad-Red, Ciudadanía Cognitiva y Educación. Revista de Educación, número extraordinario, 13–31Google Scholar
  49. Velasco Arroyo, J. (1990) Aproximación al concepto de los derechos humanos, Anuario de Derechos Humanos, vol. 7, 269–284Google Scholar
  50. Vercher, A. (1998) Derechos humanos y medio ambiente. Claves de la razón práctica, 84, 11–16Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Formación de Profesorado y EducaciónUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Facultad de Formación de Profesorado y EducaciónUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations