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Children's Rights, Educational Research and the UNCRC
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Children's Rights, Educational Research and the UNCRC

past, present and future


2016 paperback 166 pages, £36.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-95-3

However, it is still available immediately as an eBook: please click on the links below to Amazon Kindle and/or Google Books.

About the book

Children’s Rights, Educational Research, and the UNCRC provides international perspectives on contemporary issues pertaining to children’s rights in education. The global context, relevance and implications of children’s rights, educational research and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are explored from multiple perspectives. Since the development of the UNCRC over 25 years ago, significant changes have occurred in the way that children’s rights are considered, conceptualised and enacted. Even so, there remains a continued debate surrounding the extent to which the children’s rights agenda is embraced within education, as researchers, teachers and other educational professionals continue to consider the degree to which the UNCRC informs practice. This book provides critical and focused discussion on the challenges of enacting children’s rights in educational research contexts and alerts readers to the ways in which children’s rights provide a provocation to think and practise differently.

Chapter contributions from scholars in Australia, Finland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom provide diverse contexts from which subsequent educational and research practice can be derived. Each chapter problematises different aspects of children’s rights within the context of educational research with both broad and specific wide-ranging implications and provides examples of different ways that these aspects are considered in practice.

Contents [Please click on author name for summary]

Vicki Coppock, Jenna Gillett-Swan Introduction. Children's Rights, Educational Research and the UNCRC, 7-16

John I'Anson UNCRC at 25: a critical assessment of achievements and trajectories with reference to educational research, 17-37

Louise Gwenneth Phillips Educating Children and Young People on the UNCRC: actions, avoidance and awakenings, 39-59

Nina Thelander Human Rights Education: teaching children’s human rights – a matter of why, what and how, 61-79

Reetta Niemi, Kristiina Kumpulainen, Lasse Lipponen Pupils' Participation in the Finnish Classroom: turning the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into pedagogical practices, 81-100

Joana Lúcio, Fernando Ilídio Ferreira Children’s Rights in Times of Austerity: social awareness of pre-service teachers in Portugal, 101-119

Gordon Tait, Mallihai Tambyah Rights without a Remedy? Children’s Privacy, Social Governance and the UNCRC, 121-139

Jenna Gillett-Swan, Vicki Coppock The Future of Children’s Rights, Educational Research and the UNCRC in a Digital World: possibilities and prospects, 141-159

Epilogue: final reflections, 161-162

Notes on Contributors, 163-166

Introduction. Children's Rights, Educational Research and the UNCRC
Vicki Coppock, Jenna Gillett-Swan

On 20 November 1989, the United Nations General Assembly, comprised of delegates representing a wide spectrum of legal systems, cultures and religious traditions, unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Now, more than a quarter of a century on, the CRC is ratified by almost the entire international community and is widely regarded as the most important advocacy tool for children’s rights. Incorporating the full range of human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social – it creates an international legal framework for the protection and promotion of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons under the age of 18. This introductory chapter establishes the motivation and rationale for and aims and objectives of the book and outlines the overarching conceptual framework for the chapters that follow; namely a critical exploration of the ways in which the CRC has informed, presently informs and may in future inform educational research in various contexts internationally. The logic informing the structure of the book is explained and each chapter is introduced, signposting for the reader the key concepts, themes, issues and debates to be covered

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UNCRC at 25: a critical assessment of achievements and trajectories with reference to educational research
John I'Anson

This chapter offers a historical contextualisation of some of the ways in which the UNCRC has become imbricated with educational research during the past 25 years. It identifies some of the key themes, tropes, orientations and theoretical traditions that have informed children’s rights research to date, with particular reference to education. While the text of the UNCRC is the product of a legal mode, it is mobilised in largely extra-legal contexts that cut across the multiple cultures, spaces and discourses that bear upon children’s lives. To this extent, the UNCRC offers a distinctive counterpoint that resists simplification and colonisation whilst insistently raising difficult questions that are at once ethical, political and existential in scope. Some of the ways in which such issues have been taken up in the context of educational research are considered along with a consideration of some of the tensions to which this gives rise. The trope of counterpoint is then taken up as a means of exploring possible future trajectories that work beyond some of the limitations associated with practices of critique.

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Educating Children and Young People on the UNCRC: actions, avoidance and awakenings
Louise Gwenneth Phillips

Article 42 of the CRC asserts that ‘States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike’. Yet since the ratification of the CRC in 1989, the CRC is not widely known to children and adults. Public discourses of children and childhood are considered as key hindrances to widespread promotion of the CRC. Significant actions that have taken place since 1989 to promote the CRC internationally and nationally are mapped, noting gaps, missed opportunities and possible explanations for neglect in the promotion of the CRC. To move forward in honouring children’s rights through the CRC being widely known, possible awakenings in practice and policy are proposed

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Human Rights Education: teaching children’s human rights – a matter of why, what and how
Nina Thelander

This chapter is about human rights education. It takes off from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and from the World Plan of Action programmes for human rights education with a specific focus on teaching children’s human rights and what that might mean in terms of (a) knowledge and skills, (b) values, attitudes and behaviour, and (c) action to defend and promote human rights. By using examples from a case study in Sweden, a discussion of what teaching children’s human rights might be in primary school is initiated together with a general discussion of the questions of what, why and how the content of human rights education are and could be addressed in schools.

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Pupils' Participation in the Finnish Classroom: turning the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into pedagogical practices
Reetta Niemi, Kristiina Kumpulainen, Lasse Lipponen

In Finland, the recognition of children’s rights to agency and voice in the educational process has a long-standing tradition. These rights are further underscored in the process of developing the new national core curriculum for Finnish preschool and basic education. In addition to emphasising the importance of pupils’ voice and agency, the national core curriculum emphasises the social nature of teaching and learning. It also stresses engaging pupils in the process of evaluating and developing the pedagogical practices of the classroom. In this chapter, the authors describe how children’s rights to agency and voice have been enacted in the lived pedagogical practices of Finnish primary school education over recent years. They draw on empirical data based on an action research initiative collected in one primary classroom community. They conclude by considering how our learning from the past can guide the future in promoting children’s voice and agency in education.

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Children’s Rights in Times of Austerity: social awareness of pre-service teachers in Portugal
Joana Lúcio, Fernando Ilídio Ferreira

From 2010 ‒ and particularly after 2011, with the coming into force of the Financial Adjustment Programme ‒ Portugal’s economic and financial situation worsened with the adoption of a set of austerity measures that have had, and continue to have, a direct impact on families’ well-being, and therefore on that of children, especially in terms of access to health care, education and social support from the State. According to EUROSTAT data, as of 2011, 28.6% of Portuguese children were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. In this chapter, the authors discuss the issue of children’s rights in a context of social and economic cutbacks, according to three dimensions ‒ provision, protection and participation ‒ analysing how children’s right to citizenship and civic engagement can become impaired in times of precariousness and social vulnerability. To this effect, they assess pre-service teachers’ perceptions about their role (and the school’s role) as a platform for children’s civic and political development, while also discussing the transformations operated at the university by the Bologna Process, which has shown a tendency to saturate teacher training curricula with didactics-related content, to the detriment of issues such as personal and social development, and children’s participation.

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Rights without a Remedy? Children’s Privacy, Social Governance and the UNCRC
Gordon Tait, Mallihai Tambyah

Article 16 of the UNCRC states that children have the right to privacy; but what does this actually mean? The notions of rights, privacy and childhood are all socially and historically contingent. Consequently, framing children’s privacy as a natural right could be seen as problematic, to say the least. Pressures within the family towards increased surveillance of children, as well as educational imperatives for greater record keeping, increased use of personal data, closer scrutiny of student/staff interactions, and concerns over student conduct and public liability have all reduced children’s privacy rather than augmented it. As such, given that children’s right to privacy appears to be ‘a right without a remedy’, does this mean that Article 16 is ultimately pointless? Far from it. As with many elements of the UNCRC, it sets out an important symbolic benchmark for framing debates. Irrespective of the conceptual and legal shortcomings of ‘children’s privacy’, Article 16 puts the issue squarely on the table, and forces other social and governmental imperatives, rationalities and mandates to factor it into their calculations.

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The Future of Children’s Rights, Educational Research and the UNCRC in a Digital World: possibilities and prospects
Jenna Gillett-Swan, Vicki Coppock

This chapter provides a critical discussion of how the UNCRC can shape methodological practices in educational research and how existing practices may be influenced with the ready access to, and development of, digital technologies. Key issues surrounding how the UNCRC is and should be informing educational research practices are discussed and contextualised within ethical and methodological positionings. In utilising a children’s rights frame, this chapter further explores the opportunities and tensions that the UNCRC creates for educational researchers. While the availability of technology may increase the potential for actualising participatory methods that are more responsive to the methods that children seek to engage with in their free time, it also presents a number of challenges from an ethical and methodological standpoint. Technology changes the way in which individuals and communities interact with one another and the outside world. Both children’s and adults’ everyday lifeworlds are filled with a balance between the ‘real’ world and the cyber world and as the line between these two worlds is increasingly blurred, new opportunities for researchers seeking to understand children’s lifeworlds in different contexts may be presented.

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Epilogue: final reflections

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Notes on Contributors

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Vicki Coppock is Professor of Social Science: Childhood Studies and Mental Health at Edge Hill University, UK. During an academic career spanning 25 years Professor Coppock has built a national and international reputation for research and publications that focus on the investigation and social scientific analysis of theory, policy and professional practice in mental health. Her work problematises the dominance of the adult voice and the underrepresentation of the child voice in research, policy and practice and is characterised by a strong emphasis on asserting a positive children’s human rights agenda. Her research practice is underpinned by a commitment to qualitative methodologies and participatory methods, including expertise in working with primary school-aged children as peer-researchers. Professor Coppock also has a research interest in gender and sexuality and has published in this field.

Jenna Gillett-Swan is a lecturer in education at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research is focused on children’s rights, children’s voice, and well-being. She also specialises in qualitative child-centred participatory research methodologies and finding ways for children to have a greater participatory role in contributing to matters that affect their lives. Jenna’s interest in the role of digital technologies in the lives of networked children and young people stems from her participatory research practices where a range of communicative tools that children already choose to engage with outside of the research space can be utilised and their potential explored. Jenna is guest editor for the Global Studies of Childhood 2016 Special Issue, ‘Children’s Rights in the 21st Century Digital Age’, and the Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 2017 Special Issue, ‘Exploring the Diversity of Pre-service and Beginning Teachers’ Experiences through Multiple Lenses’.

Kristiina Kumpulainen is Professor of Education at the Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland. She is also the founding member and the scientific director of the Playful Learning Center ( She received her PhD in Education from the University of Exeter in 1994, focusing on children’s collaborative writing with computers. She has held two distinguished scholarly positions awarded by the Academy of Finland. In the years 2006 09 she directed the national interdisciplinary research network on learning, CICERO Learning. She has also served as the Director of the Information and Evaluation Services Unit at the Finnish National Board of Education. Prof. Kumpulainen has been a visiting professor at the Institute of Education, University of Warwick, and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. Prof. Kumpulainen’s research focuses on tool-mediated learning and communication in various settings, including early childhood centres, schools, museums and teacher education settings. She has also addressed methodological questions in the analysis of social interaction in collaborative, creative and digital learning. Her current research centres on learning across contexts, play and playful learning, digital literacy, learner agency and identity, resilience, as well as visual participatory research.

Lasse Lipponen is a professor of education, with special reference to early childhood education, at the Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, Finland. His research work is directed to compassion; children’s agency; understanding children’s experiences in their lifeworld with digital documentation and participatory research methods; and teacher education. Lipponen has authored over 100 research articles on teaching and learning. He is a co-founder of ‘Playful Learning Center’ (, and a founding partner of Helsinki International Schools (

Joana Lúcio holds a PhD in Educational Sciences from the University of Porto, Portugal. She has coordinated and/or participated in several research-intervention projects in the field of local development, with a particular interest in non-formal and informal educational dynamics, as well as the role of associations, small and medium-sized enterprises and local government. She has taught mediation and conflict management in teacher training courses. She is a researcher at the Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, Portugal. She has been collaborating with the European Educational Research Association since 2010, through its Network 14 – Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research (which she coordinated between 2012 and 2015). She has recently co-edited a special issue of the European Educational Research Journal, on the subject of ‘Children as Members of a Community: citizenship, participation and educational development’.

Fernando Ilídio Ferreira holds a PhD in Child Studies from the University of Minho, Portugal, where he has been an Associate Professor since 2009. He teaches at the University’s Institute of Education, at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, having also coordinated the practicum in pre-service basic school teacher training. He is a researcher at the Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho. For several years, he has been a consultant for a regional ‘Teachers’ Centre’, as well as a local Priority Education cluster of schools. He has been a part of several national and international research projects, such as ‘Teacher Induction: supporting the supporters of novice teachers in Europe’, ‘Leading Schools Successfully in Challenging Urban Contexts: strategies for improvement’ and ‘Teachers Exercising Leadership – Challenges and Opportunities’. He has authored more than a hundred books, book chapters and papers, addressing issues such as teacher education, school organisation, educational policies, community education, primary and pre-school education and childhood, in general. He has supervised several master’s dissertations and doctoral theses in Education and Child Studies.

John I’Anson is Director of Initial Teacher Education in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, UK. He is Convenor for the Research in Children’s Rights in Education Network at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). His research is focussed in the areas of children’s rights, cultural difference, and aesthetic education.

Reetta Niemi is a lecturer at Viikki Teacher Training School, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland. She received her PhD from the University of Jyväskylä in 2009 focusing on participatory pedagogy in health education. After that her research has focused on developing participatory pedagogy through narrative learning projects. She has also addressed methodological questions in pedagogical action research. In her research, Reetta Niemi has developed visual participatory research methods in order to perceive children’s meaningful learning experiences. Her research has also centred on understanding how children’s meaningful experiences can help teachers to develop their practical theories and pedagogical actions in classrooms.

Louise G. Phillips is a lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Queensland, Australia where she teaches early years, arts and literacy education. Louise has been researching children’s rights and citizenship for more than eight years. She is currently a recipient of a prestigious Spencer Foundation major grant for the project titled: ‘Civic Action and Learning with Young Children: comparing approaches in New Zealand, Australia and the United States’. To enhance and innovate explorations of children’s citizenship and civic engagement, Louise also collaborates with community cultural development artists and architects to explore opportunities for intergenerational participation in the public sphere.

Gordon Tait is an Associate Professor in the School of Cultural and Professional Learning at Queensland University of Technology. He has a background in Sociology and Physical Education and teaches in the areas of the sociology and philosophy of education, as well as education and the law. Gordon has published widely in the areas of cultural studies, sociology, philosophy and criminology. His current research interests surround applied philosophy and behaviour disorders as well as the sociology of death investigations.

Mallihai Tambyah is a Lecturer in Social Education in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. In her doctorate she examined middle years teachers’ conceptions of essential knowledge for social science education. Her research examines teacher professional identities, middle school teachers’ approach to curriculum change, pre-service social science teachers’ knowledge, teachers’ work and initial teacher education. She is currently researching history teachers’ use of digital/print fictional and information texts and how these texts shape their perspectives on national and civic identities in multicultural Australia.

Nina Thelander is a lecturer in educational work at Karlstad University, Sweden. Her main research interest concerns children’s rights in education. Her doctoral thesis focused on school children’s perspectives on children’s rights in education in Kenya and Sweden. In addition to her interest in children’s rights in education her research is also directed towards how children and childhood is constructed and regulated in various international educational contexts. Another research focus is in teaching and assessment issues especially from a child rights perspective. At the moment she is researching in a national project focusing on what children’s human rights are in teaching and learning in Swedish schools. Moreover, she has participated and participates in various international partnerships and exchanges at the graduate level as well as at the undergraduate level.

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