A global history in a global world? Human rights in history education in the Global North and South

Olle Nolgård, Thomas Nygren, Felisa Tibbitts, Anamika Anamika, Denise Bentrovato, Paul Enright, Johan Wassermann, Oakleigh Welply


In this study, we analyze similarities and differences in 957 students’ perceptions of the history of human rights in six countries: England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the United States of America. This is investigated through the lens of the intended, implemented and achieved curricula. Our aim is to better understand what historical events students perceive as central in the history of human rights in different countries and how this may relate to education about, through and for human rights across borders. While the findings indicate a global culture of human rights, we identify several challenges in the teaching and learning of universal human rights in history education. In some instances, notions of nationalism and exceptionalism in society and history culture pose great challenges to the teaching and learning of human rights. In others, a strong focus on the global world have complicated the identification of human rights issues in the local context. Our findings also highlight the neglect of certain historical narratives, most notably the history of indigenous and minority groups. These findings are significant to researchers, teachers and decision-makers interested in furthering human rights and international understanding through education.


comparative education; global citizenship; human rights education (HRE); history education

Full Text:



Apple, M.W (1992). The text and cultural politics. Educational Researcher, 21(7), 4-19

Barton, K. C. (2019). Students’ Understanding of Institutional Practices: The Missing Dimension in Human Rights Education. American Educational Research Journal. (E-pub, pre-print) DOI: 10.3102/0002831219849871

Barton, K.C. & Levstik, L. S. (2004). Teaching history for the common good. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates

Ball, S., Maguire, M., Braun, A. , Perryman, J. & Hoskins, K. (2012) Assessment technologies in schools: ‘deliverology’ and the ‘play of dominations’, Research Papers in Education, 27:5, 513-533, DOI: 10.1080/02671522.2010.550012

Bentrovato, D. & Wassermann, J. (2018) Mediating transitional justice: South Africa’s TRC in history textbooks and the implications for peace, Global Change, Peace & Security, 30:3, 335-351, DOI: 10.1080/14781158.2018.1438386

Brooks, S. (2011) Historical Empathy as Perspective Recognition and Care in One Secondary Social Studies Classroom, Theory & Research in Social Education, 39:2, 166-202, DOI: 10.1080/00933104.2011.10473452

Brooks, S. (2014) Connecting the Past to the Present in the Middle-Level Classroom: A Comparative Case Study, Theory & Research in Social Education, 42:1, 65-95, DOI: 10.1080/00933104.2013.860068

Cannadine, D, Keating, J. and Sheldon, N. (2011). The Right Kind of History: Teaching the Past in Twentieth Century England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chapman, A., Burn, K., Kitson, A. (2018). “What is School History for? English Student- teachers’ Perspectives”. Arbor, 194 (788): a443. https://doi. org/10.3989/arbor.2018.788n2003

Conrad, S. (2016). What is global history? Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Creswell, J.W. & Plano Clark, V.L. (2017[2018]). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. (Third Edition.) Los Angeles: SAGE.

Davies, I., Evans, M., & Reid, A. (2005). Globalising citizenship education? A critique of ‘global education’and ‘citizenship education’. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(1), 66-89.

Department of Education and Science (DES). (1991). History in the National Curriculum. London: HMSO.

Department for Education (DfE). (1995). History in the National Curriculum: England. London: HMSO.

Department for Education and Employ- ment (DfEE) and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). (1999). History: The National Curriculum for England. London: DfEE / QCA.

Department for Education (DfE). (2013).History programmes of study: key stage 3 National curriculum in England

Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). (1999). History: The National Curriculum for England. London: DfEE / QCA.

Department of Education and Science (DES). (1991). History in the National Curriculum. London: HMSO.

Department of Basic Education (2011). National Curriculum Statement Grades 10 – 12 (General) History. Pretoria: Department of Basic Education

Education Review Office, New Zealand (2018), What Drives Learning in the Senior School? http://www.ero.govt.nz/publications/what-drives-learning-in-the-senior-secondary-school/ [2019-10-30]

Endacott. J.L. (2010) Reconsidering Affective Engagement in Historical Empathy, Theory & Research in Social Education, 38:1.

Foster, Stuart; Pettigrew, A; Pearce A; Hale, R; Burgess, A; Salmons P and Lenga R.A (2016) What do students know and understand about the Holocaust? Evidence from English Secondary Schools. London: Centre for Holocaust Education, UCL

Goodlad, J. (Ed.) (1979) Curriculum and Inquiry. New York: Mc Graw –Hill Book Company

Gove, M. (2010) All Pupils will learn our island story. Speech given on 5th October 2010. Retrieved from https://conservative-speeches.sayit.mysociety.org/speech/601441 [2019-10-30].

Iriye, A. (2002). Global community: The role of international organizations in the making of the contemporary world. Univ of California Press.

Jeismann, K.E. (1979) "Geschichtsbewußtsein" [Historical consiousness]. In K. Bergmann, A. Kuhn, J. Rüsen, & G. Schneider (Eds.), Handbuch der Geschichtsdidaktik [Handbook of History didactics]. Düsseldorf: Pädagogischer Verlag Schwann. (p. 42–45)

Johnson, R. B., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational Researcher, 33(7), 14-26.

Kallaway, P. (2012). History in senior secondary school CAPS 2012 and beyond: a comment. Yesterday & today, 7:23-62, Jul.

Kohlmeier, J. (2006). “Couldn't she just leave?”: The relationship between consistently using class discussions and the development of historical empathy in a 9th grade world history course. Theory & Research in Social Education, 34(1), 34-57.

Levstik, L. S., & Barton, K. C. (2018). Researching history education: Theory, method, and context: Routledge.

Lindensjö, B. & Lundgren, U.P. (2000). Utbildningsreformer och politisk styrning [Education reforms and political governance] . Stockholm: HLS förl..

Lücke, M., Engel, E., Fenner, L. & Tibbitts, F. (ed.) (2016). CHANGE: Handbook for History Learning and Human Rights Education : for educators in formal, non-formal and higher education. 1. Auflage Schwalbach: Wochenschau Verlag

Lücke, M. "The Change Approach for Combining History Learning and Human Rights Education" in Lücke, M., Engel, E., Fenner, L. & Tibbitts, F. (ed.) (2016). CHANGE: Handbook for History Learning and Human Rights Education : for educators in formal, non-formal and higher education. 1. Auflage Schwalbach: Wochenschau Verlag (p.39 - 52)

Løkke Rasmussen, M. (2013). The Human Rights Education Toolbox: A Practicioner's guide to planning and managing human rights education. Copenhagen: The Danish Institute for Human Rights

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (2003). Massachusetts History and Social Studies Curriculum Framework. Malden, MA: Massachusetts Department of Education.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (2018). Massachusetts History and Social Studies Curriculum Framework. Malden, MA: Massachusetts Department of Education.

Mc Evoy, C. (2017) Historical efforts to implement the UNESCO 1974 Recommendation on Education in light of 3 SDG’s Targets. Paris: UNESCO.

McNeely, C. L. (1995). Prescribing national education policies: The role of international organizations. Comparative education review, 39(4), 483-507.

Meyer, J. W., Boli, J., Thomas, G. M., & Ramirez, F. O. (1997). World society and the nation-state. American Journal of sociology, 103(1), 144-181.

Ministry of Education (2007). The New Zealand curriculum: Te anga Marautanga o Aotearoa. Wellington: Learning Media

Ministry of Education (2017). "History - Rationale".

http://seniorsecondary.tki.org.nz/Social-sciences/History/Rationale [2019-10-30]

Nates, T. (2010) ‘But, apartheid was also genocide … What about our suffering?’ Teaching the Holocaust in South Africa – opportunities and challenges, Intercultural Education, 21:sup1, S17-S26, DOI: 10.1080/14675981003732183

Nolgård, O. & Nygren, T. (2019) Considering the past and present of Romani in Sweden: secondary school pupils’ thinking and caring about the history of the Romani in national tests, Education Inquiry, DOI: 10.1080/20004508.2019.1607708

Nygren, T. (2011). History in the service of mankind: international guidelines and history education in upper secondary schools in Sweden, 1927-2002. Diss. (sammanfattning) Umeå : Umeå universitet, 2011

Nygren, T. (2016a). UNESCO Teaches History: Implementing International Understanding in Sweden. In A History of UNESCO (pp. 201-230): Springer.

Nygren, T. (2016b). Thinking and caring about indigenous peoples’ human rights: Swedish students writing history beyond scholarly debate. Journal of Peace Education, 13(2), 113-135.

Nygren, T., & Johnsrud, B. (2018). What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Say? Teaching the Historical and Practical Past to Promote Human Rights in Education. Journal of Human Rights Practice.

Ormond, B., (2017) "Curriculum decisions - the challenges of teacher autonomy over knowledge selection for history." Journal of Curriculum Studies, 49(5) 599-619, DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/00220272.2016.1149225

OSCE (2009). Human Rights Education in School Systems of Europe, Central Asia and North America: A Compendium of Good Practice, Warsaw: OSCE.

Osler, A. (2009). Patriotism, multiculturalism and belonging: political discourse and the teaching of history. Educational Review, 61 (1), pp. 85-100. https://doi. org/10.1080/00131910802684813

Osler, A. (2015) "Human Rights Education, Postcolonial Scholarship, and Action for Social Justice." Theory & Research in Social Education 43, no. 2 (2015/04/03 2015): 244-74.

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (2007) History Programme of Study Key Stage 3. Retrieved from: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130802151252/https://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/secondary/ b00199545/history [2019-10-30]

Rüsen, J. (1997). "Historiches Erzählen" [Historical narratives] in Bergmann, K (ed.). Handbuch der Geschictsdidaktik [Handbook of history didactics]. Sellze-Velber: Kallmeyer. (p.57-63).

Skolverket (2011a). Curriculum for the compulsory school, preschool class and the recreation centre 2011. Stockholm: Skolverket

Skolverket (2011b). Upper Secondary School 2011. Stockholm: Skolverket

Seixas, P.C. (ed.) (2004). Theorizing historical consciousness. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Sheehan, M., (2017a), "A matter of choice - biculturalism", Public History Weekly, January 2017, https://public-history-weekly.degruyter.com/5-2017-2/a-matter-of-choice-biculturalism/ [2019-10-30]

Sheehan, M (2017b), A matter of Choice: Controversial histories, citizenship, and the challenge of a high-autonomy curriculum.", Curriculum Matter, 13, p.103-114, DOI https://doi.org/10.18296/cm.0023

Standish, K. & Nygren, T. . "Looking for Peace in the Swedish National Curricula." Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy (2018): 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/20020317.2018.1474701

Struthers, A.E.C. (2015) Human rights education: educating about, through and for human rights, The International Journal of Human Rights, 19:1, 53-73, DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2014.986652

Struthers, A.E.C (2017) The Underdeveloped Transformative Potential of Human Rights Education: English Primary Education as a Case Study, Journal of Human Rights Practice, Volume 9, Issue 1, 1 February 2017, Pages 68–84, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhuman/huw023

Tibbitts, F. (2002). Emerging Models for Human Rights Education. International Review of Education, 48(3-4), pp. 159-171.

Tibbitts, F. (2016). Political Autobiography: Reflexive Inquiry in the Preparation of Social Justice Educators. International Journal of Educational Sciences. 13(1), pp. 108-117.

Tibbitts, F. (2017). Evolution of Human Rights Education Models. In Bajaj, M. (Ed.), Human Rights Education: Theory, Research, Praxis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 69-95.

Tibbitts, F. & Weldon, G. (2017). History curriculum and teacher training: shaping a democratic future in post-apartheid South Africa? Comparative Education, 53(3), pp. 442-461.

The National Center for History in the Schools (1996). History Standards. Los Angeles: University of California.

United Nations (2011) "United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training A." RES/66/137, 19 December 2011.

University of California-Los Angeles (2018s). “National Standards for History”. https://phi.history.ucla.edu/nchs/history-standards/ [2019-10-30].

University of California-Los Angeles (2018s). “Alignment to Common Core Standards”. https://phi.history.ucla.edu/nchs/alignment-common-core-standards/ [2019-10-30].

UN General Assembly (2015), Transforming our world : the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1984) Teaching for International Understanding, Peace and Human Rights. Paris: UNESCO.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2001), UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2 November 2001

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2006).Plan of Action: World Programme for Human Rights Education. Paris: UNESCO.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2018). What is Global Citizenship Education? https://en.unesco.org/themes/gced/definition [2019-10-30]

Welply, O. (2018). ‘I’m not being offensive but…’ intersecting discourses of discrimination towards Muslim children in school. Race Ethnicity and Education 21(3): 370-389.

White, Hayden V. (2014). The practical past. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press

Åström Elmersjö, H., & Lindmark, D. (2010). Nationalism, Peace Education, and History Textbook Revision in Scandinavia, 1886-1940. Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, 2(2), 63–74. https://doi.org/10.3167/jemms.2010.020205

Åström Elmersjö, H., Clark, A. & Vinterek, M. (ed.) (2017). International perspectives on teaching rival histories: pedagogical responses to contested narratives and the history wars. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Olle Nolgård, Thomas Nygren, Felisa Tibbitts, Anamika Anamika, Denise Bentrovato, Paul Enright, Johan Wassermann, Oakleigh Welply

Historical Encounters is a double blind peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the empirical and theoretical study of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education.

The journal is published by the HERMES History Education Research Network concentrated at The University of Newcastle, Australia. The journal publishes at least two issues per year (one will typically have a special theme). To ensure timely availability of scholarship, articles and reviews are published as soon as they have been successfully through the peer review and editorial processes, adding cumulatively to the content for the single regular issue each year. No fees are charged for subscription or publication. The journal is indexed in SCOPUSDOAJ, and Google Scholar, and periodically archived in the National Library of Australia's PANDORA Archive. Contributors to the journal retain copyright to their work. Please read the Copyright Notice for full details.

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

Click here to download the Journal Information booklet, with complete Author Guidelines.

Follow us on Twitter: @HEJ_HERMES or #HistoricalEncounters

A/ Professor Robert J. Parkes, PhD
Editor-in-Chief | Historical Encounters
Faculty of Education and Arts
The University of Newcastle
Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia

All correspondence: editorialteam@hermes-history.net

ISSN 2203-7543