Human rights education in many parts of Asia is still lacking and in need of substantive and qualitative change, academics and human rights activists from Asia said yesterday at a conference in Taipei.
Jefferson Plantilla, a lawyer and human rights educator based in Japan, said that many cases of human rights violations were reported throughout Southeast Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when rulers placed economic growth ahead of improving human rights education awareness and training.
Plantilla made the remarks at the three-day international conference titled “Propagation and Implementation of the Idea of Human Rights” organized by the Taipei Municipal University of Education.
Plantilla said that since 2000, human rights education centers have been established across the region, and as of November this year, 90 such centers were in place to help promote human rights education.
However, the lack of coordination among these centers still poses a big problem for citizens, he said.
Li Dan (李丹), an AIDS and human rights activist from China, said that he has felt deprived of human rights education from a very young age.
“If you are an optimist, you would say things are gradually changing in China, but the truth is that courses and teaching on human rights education remain very scant,” Li said.
He said there are only two universities in China that offer courses that teach the universal values of human rights, while the majority of schools are more inclined to brainwash students into believing that Chinese people do not need the kind of human rights education that is widely available to students in the West.
Tang Mei-ying (湯梅英), a professor with the Taipei Municipal University of Education, who has conducted several surveys into teachers’ attitudes on the promotion of human rights education in Taiwan, said that most local teachers are supportive of the teaching and promotion of human rights-related courses.
She said the responsibility for creating a positive environment for the promotion of human rights education in Taiwan is not just that of educators. The government and media should also be more actively involved.
“When it comes to human rights education in Taiwan, we need more action and fewer slogans,” she said, adding that “political influence should also be eliminated.”
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