25 SES 03 A, Macro perspectives: policy and reviews
This review focuses on students’ perceptions of their rights in school. It aims to characterize students’ perceptions of their rights in school and explore the factors influencing these perceptions. Published systemic reviews on different aspects of children’s rights in school have not focused on students’ perceptions (Mager & Nowak, 2012; Quennerstedt, 2011; Quennerstedt & Moody, 2020; Urinboyev et al., 2016). The reviews of Quennerstedt (2011) and Quennerstedt and Moody (2020) incorporated a general analysis of the research regarding children’s rights in education, including many theoretical and legal studies. Urinboyev et al. (2016) focused on the enforcement of students’ rights, whereas Mager and Nowak (2012) reviewed studies that explored the effects of student participation in decision making at school. Aside from its focus on how students perceive their rights, this review is innovative in its inclusion of a variety of studies from research fields that do not typically interact, ranging from large-scale quantitative psychological studies on perceived discrimination to ethnographies that focused on privacy or participation rights in specific schools.
The review focuses on the school context, recognizing that substantial differences distinguish between children’s perceptions of their rights in the various domains of their life, such as school, family, community, and the political system (Ben‐Arieh & Attar-Schwartz, 2013). Ben‐Arieh and Attar-Schwartz (2013), who explored children’s perceptions of rights in different domains, argued that an ecological perspective that differentiates between these domains is needed to understand children’s perceptions. They noted in this regard that some of the differences between the domains are so apparent that any claim to understand them in the absence of an ecological perspective “seems almost useless” (p. 104). Thus, in this review, the analysis of students’ perceptions of their rights is intertwined with the school setting as a system having a distinct set of actors and institutional structures.
To enable a robust understanding of the research questions, the review employs the concept of rights consciousness. The study of rights consciousness examines how people perceive rights, and in particular, what processes spur people to define problems and obstacles in terms of rights (Merry, 2003).
Knowledge about human rights is essential to the development of rights consciousness (e.g., Engle & Munger, 2003; Merry, 2003). Such knowledge may be acquired through human rights education programs (Bajaj et al., 2017; Barton, 2020; Hantzopoulos, 2015). Rights consciousness also evolves in light of previous experiences of rights (Blackstone et al., 2009; Nielsen, 2015). Generally, people on the higher levels of social status hierarchies have more positive experiences of rights and thus a greater sense of legal and institutional entitlement (Hirsh & Lyons, 2010), whereas a marginal social location may lead to skepticism as to the law’s ability to provide remedies (Nielsen, 2004). However, marginal social location and negative experiences of rights can also produce cultural scripts that promote naming (Lamont et al., 2016). Another related factor that influences the development of rights consciousness concerns emotions, including emotions fostered by one’s connection to others (Abrams, 2011; Blackstone et al., 2009).
Schools have a crucial role in inculcating children’s rights consciousness, as they can provide knowledge about rights, shape structures and practices enabling experiences of rights, and ensure emotional support facilitating the naming of rights. The school’s role is particularly central when children are victims of abuse, neglect, or discrimination in other life domains, and may perceive these experiences as normal and inevitable.
Literature concerning students’ perceptions of their rights in school was collected through searches of three databases: Google Scholar, JSTOR, and ERIC. The following restrictions were applied: 1. The articles were published between 1989 and 2020, inclusive. 2. The articles had to include determined keywords in their titles or abstracts. The keywords and their combinations were adapted to each of the search engines and included various combinations of the word “rights” with general words such as “education,” “school,” “student,” “pupil,” and “perceptions.” I also conducted various searches that combined these general words with keywords relating to specific rights - “participation,” “voice,” “privacy,” “equality,” “discrimination,” “due process,” and “free speech.” The various searches yielded 2663 results in Google Scholar, 1732 results in ERIC, and 657 results in JSTOR. I read the articles’ titles and abstracts, discarded duplicates, and selected the studies that met the following criteria: 1. Studies published in English. 2. Studies based on data collected from students in elementary or secondary schools. 3. Studies published in peer-reviewed journals that were ranked in the SCImago journal rank indicator. 4. Empirical studies that employed original quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method inquiries of students’ perceptions. The above restrictions yielded 75 studies. After reading the full text of the articles, several additional exclusion criteria were applied: 1. Studies that addressed students’ perceptions of their rights in various domains, but did not differentiate between school and other domains. 2. Studies that focused on rights in schools but did not analyze students’ perceptions of their rights. At this stage, a further search was conducted, based on complementary search methods: follow-up of references, citation searching, and citation pearl growing. Thirty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria. The preliminary analysis of the articles included documenting the research questions of each study, methods used, location, sample size, theoretical framework or approach, and key findings. Afterward, to address the research questions, I extracted information from all studies with respect to each research question. During an additional round of analysis, a coding scheme was developed for each research question. Characteristics of students’ perceptions of their rights in school included (1) informal perceptions and (2) complex interrelations of resistance and normalization. The following factors were identified as influencing students’ perceptions of their rights in school and were analyzed in the review: (1) the school context, (2) the national context, (3) minority status, religion, and SES, (4) age, and (5) gender.
Characteristics of students’ perceptions: Students’ perceptions of their rights in school were characterized by informality. This informal rights consciousness may be embedded in their insufficient knowledge about rights, which may explain their use of intuition to fill the legal concepts with content. It may also relate to the fact that rights in school are often subject to multiple interpretations. Studies also revealed complex tensions between resistance and normalization in students’ perceptions of their rights in school. It seems that some of these tensions stem from conflicting narratives that are inherent to the implementation of rights relating to privacy and discipline. However, regarding students’ participation rights, the analysis appears to relate to students’ previous experiences. Whereas students who do not participate in structured participation frameworks are inclined to criticize the insufficient implementation of participation rights in school, students who participate in such councils may normalize their participation, even when it is tokenistic. Factors that influence students’ perceptions: The most prominent factors that influence students’ perceptions of their rights in school lay in the school context. Students’ race has implications on their rights consciousness as well. These implications are complex, and they are subject to cultural scripts relating to the group and the specific rights. The review left open questions concerning the impact of several individual factors on student perceptions of their rights in school, including SES, age and gender. Implications: Studies on students’ rights consciousness should develop a context-based research agenda. Notably, such analysis may be at odds with the global vision of human rights, often translated to global frameworks for the implementation of rights in school. However, it may assist in developing more effective human rights education programs and rights-based institutional practices that address local needs and are adapted to cultural constructions.
Abrams, K. (2011). Emotions in the mobilization of rights. Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Review, 46, 551–589. Bajaj, M., Canlas, M., & Argenal, A. (2017). Between rights and realities: Human rights education for immigrant and refugee youth in an urban public high school. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 48(2), 124–140. Barton, K. C. (2020). Students’ understanding of institutional practices: The missing dimension in human rights education. American Educational Research Journal, 57(1), 188–217. Ben‐Arieh, A., & Attar-Schwartz, S. (2013). An ecological approach to children’s rights and participation: Interrelationships and correlates of rights in different ecological systems. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83(1), 94–106. Blackstone, A., Uggen, C., & McLaughlin, H. (2009). Legal consciousness and responses to sexual harassment. Law & Society Review, 43(3), 631–668. Engel, D. M., & Munger, F. W. (2003). Rights of inclusion. University of Chicago Press. Hantzopoulos, M. (2015). Sites of liberation or sites of despair?: The challenges and possibilities of democratic education in an urban public school in New York City. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 46(4), 345–362. Hirsh, E., & Lyons, C. J. (2010). Perceiving discrimination on the job: Legal consciousness, workplace context, and the construction of race discrimination. Law & Society Review, 44(2), 269–298. Lamont, M., Silva, G., Welburn, J., Guetzkow, J., Mizrachi, N., Herzog, H., & Reis, E. (2016). Getting respect: Responding to stigma and discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel. Mager, U., & Nowak, P. (2012). Effects of student participation in decision making at school. A systematic review and synthesis of empirical research. Educational Research Review, 7(1), 38–61. Merry, S. E. (2003). Rights talk and the experience of law: Implementing women’s human rights to protection from violence. Human Rights Quarterly, 25(2), 343–381. Nielsen, L. (2004). License to harass: Law, hierarchy, and offensive public speech. Princeton University Press. Nielsen, S., Paasonen, S., & Spisak, S. (2015). “Pervy role-play and such”: Girls’ experiences of sexual messaging online. Sex Education, 15(5), 472–485. Quennerstedt, A. (2011). The construction of children’s rights in education–a research synthesis. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 19(4), 661–678. Quennerstedt, A., & Moody, Z. (2020). Educational children’s rights research 1989–2019: Achievements, gaps and future prospects. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 28(1), 183–208. Urinboyev, R., Wickenberg, P., & Leo, U. (2016). Child rights, classroom and school management: A systematic literature review. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 24(3), 522–547.
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