25 SES 13 JS, Citizenship Education and the Child's Best Interest
Joint Paper Session NW 10 and NW 25
General description on research questions, objectives and theoretical framework
The research question was as follows:
How does the principle of the child´s best interest affect educational and legal dilemmas in everyday working lives of school leaders?
The starting point for this research was a hypothesis that teachers and school leaders have somewhat limited legal knowledge and also lack knowledge of legal method (i.e., theory of sources of law). Lack of legal knowledge may complicate implementation of the Education Act and the principle of the “child´s best interest” as it is set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Norwegian schools. We therefore undertook to discover which pedagogical-legal dilemmas school personnel experience in their daily school life. The concept of ‘pedagogical-legal dilemma’ refers to a problem arising in the intersection of a pedagogical and a legal question to which there is no easy or straight forward answer.
In Norway, the Education Act, which applies to both elementary and secondary school, was passed in 1998. The statutory objective of the bill is comprehensive and ambitious. It stipulates that education shall open doors towards the world and the future and give pupils and apprentices historical and cultural insights and knowledge. Furthermore, education shall build on fundamental values in society such as human integrity, benevolence, equality and solidarity. These are core values in accordance with the human rights obligations established in the Norwegian Constitution. In addition, the Act states that the pupil has a right to education, upper secondary education and adapted education. Pupils who do not receive an adequate outcome from ordinary education have the right to special education. The bill also includes requirements on how education shall be organised and expectations regarding the school environment. All pupils have, according to the law, the right to a safe and benevolent environment to further the pupils´ health, well-being and learning.
Norway has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and incorporated it as a formal state act in the Human Rights Act of the 21st of May 1999, No. 30. It takes precedence over other Norwegian acts. For the individual pupil, the principle of the “child´s best interest” (Convention on the Rights of the Child, Art. 3, Sect. 1) is of central importance as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, both as a principle and a specific right. The child´s best interest as a right and a primary consideration shall be applied when decisions are being made in relation to adapted education, special education and questions regarding the school environment.The importance of the principle cannot be put at risk because of lack of legal knowledge among school leaders. This implies that school leaders not only must receive education on relevant legal rules, but also on how the law shall be applied when facing different dilemmas.
School-leaders and other personnel in secondary school who participated in a continuing education course in Educational Law and Labour Law, were asked to describe a pedagogical-legal dilemma from their every day school life, in the form of a written essay. All participants provided their consent to participate in the study. Data was collected in autumn 2017. Before commencing the study, we received approval from the Norwegian Centre for Research Data to utilise the material in our research. A total of 19 course participants consented to our utilisation of their essays in our research project, comprising 13 women and six men. The course was set in motion because of a demand from the municipality, and the participants were mainly linked to secondary schools within this region. Nine of the participants defined themselves as leaders (e.g., principals), five as counsellors and five as having more independent positions. Seventeen of the participants stated that they had enrolled in the course to improve their knowledge in legal regulations governing schools. The last two participants wanted to use the course to fulfil a Master´s Programme. In our analysis, we have used a theoretical approach named bricolage (Kvale and Brinkmann, 2017). With this approach we move back and forth in the data material searching for patterns utilising different methods. We have studied the essays to create an overall picture, and subsequently elaborated on particularly interesting statements. Hence, we have utilised many different ad hoc methods and approaches when analysing the texts. We have also made use of legal method when evaluating the pedagogical-legal essays in light of relevant legal rules including the principle of the best interest of the child. In the analysis, we discussed which dilemmas were most commonly brought forward. We have also discussed which regulations contradict each other, the unintended consequences, and what issues professionals experience as being most demanding when applying the Education Act and associated regulations (e.g., Working Environment Act, the Public Administration Act and the Human Rights Act). Since the principle of the child´s best interest shall be a primary consideration both on an individual and organisational level, we have chosen to bring it to the forefront, as a common feature in the analysis of the different pedagogical-legal issues which the school leaders and other personnel presented.
Expected results Preliminary findings suggest that while the regulations are mainly adequate, teachers and school leaders do not receive sufficient training in applying them. This is a potential detriment to the rights of children pursuant to the Education Act. Children are unable to promote their own rights and are therefore dependent on adults having sufficient knowledge of their respective rights, and that they practice protection of these rights accordingly. The inferior knowledge on regulations will altogether entail that those who make decisions do not have adequate knowledge of and competence in applying the principle of the Child´s best interest as a material right, a procedural regulation and a principle in formal and practical decisions involving children. A preliminary analysis indicates that the informants experience different pedagogical-legal dilemmas. In eight of the cases, dilemmas involved adapted education and special education, in three of the essays the child´s best interest was directly brought forward and in one case, the question of the child’s best interest was examined indirectly. One informant described dealing with students who study part time due to poor health and the challenges that they face. Chapter 9A, the right to a safe and benevolent environment in the Education Act, was mentioned in three cases – in two together with adapted education. In the last six cases, themes were linked to the right to school transport, problems regarding special examination arrangements, the absent adequate measures when parents stop sending their children to school. Additional issues included challenges pertaining to minority groups who need Norwegian language education (but not special education), and interpretation of the regulation regarding the right to upper secondary education for adults who are unable to document having completed elementary school due to war in their homeland.
References: 1.Steinar Kvale and Svend Brinchmann, Det kvalitative forskningsintervju [The qualitative research interview], Gyldendal Norsk Forlag AS 2015, 3 utgave, 3 opplag 2017, Oslo. 2.The Constitution of the Kingdom of Norway 1814-05-17 3.Act relating to Primary and Secondary Education and Training (Education Act) 1998-07-17-61 4.Act relating to working environment, working hours and employment protection, etc. (Working Environment Act) 2005-06-17-62 5.Procedure in cases concerning the public administration (Public Administration Act) 1967-02-10 6.Act relating to promoting Human Rights in Norwegian Law (Human Rights Act) 1999-05-21-30 7.Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989-11-20
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
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