Learning by doing and human rights


'Learning by doing' is the foundation of our approach to human rights education. But what do this approach mean, and how can it be used to teach human rights?

When we think about human rights, we readily imagine pictures of oppression in faraway countries, big books on politics, international law and moral philosophy, or heated debates in newspaper columns, TV studios and the UN General Assembly . When we think about teaching human rights, it is natural to think that this is the material that we have to build on - and indeed, it is hard to imagine human rights education without these elements. However, we aim to go beyond this traditional classroom-approach to education, and instead create something that children and youth can actually relate to.

Learning through experience

Our goal, and the goal of CISV, is to help people learn through experience - to create something that can be engaging, interesting and even fun. 'Learning by doing' is an educational method which help people learn through different activities. It works by setting up scenarios and tasks that enables participants to learn through their own mistakes and successes. In this way people integrate the new knowledge in their day-to-day life in a natural and unconscious way.

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced - Søren Kierkegaard.

'Learning by doing' helps people get to know themselves and gives them space to reflect on how the subject matter (for example, human rights) is important to themselves and others. Unlike traditional teaching, learning by doing does not mean telling the person what to learn and how to learn it - it means guiding them through a learning process with themselves at the centre. Neither is it a process in which one person teaches and the other learns, rather everyone involved learn from each other. In addition to knowledge, this process help develop skills in communication, imagination and leadership.

The end result is an education that is experienced, not taught.

Sharing experiences through video

CISV has been using 'Learning by doing' for over sixty years, and we draw on that experience and expertise when we make activities about human rights. However, as we aim to reach beyond just those who come to our local activities, we also create videos that can be shared and used by people all over the globe who are interested in human rights and human rights education.

When we use videos to tell the story of human rights, we tell human stories. We talk to people who have had their rights violated or who have fought for human rights - both their own rights and the rights of others. That way, instead of us talking about human rights, we share an experience - something which can evoke understanding and empathy. So far, we have met with refugees, exiled politicians, and human rights activists - and we will be meeting many more throughout our year as Kompaz.

We are looking forward to sharing their stories with you in the coming months.