Educating young adults to undertake actions for human rights : students at the Non-Military Service Center

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, L6

Topic of the dissertation

Educating young adults to undertake actions for human rights : students at the Non-Military Service Center

Doctoral candidate

Master of Social Sciences (International Relations) Vihtori Kylänpää

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Values, Ideologies and Social Contexts of Education

Subject of study

Education

Opponent

Professor Audrey Osler, University of South-Eastern Norway / University of Leeds, UK

Custos

Professor Elina Lehtomäki, University of Oulu

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Doctoral thesis highlights the importance of introducing human rights by examples which are familiar to students

Previous research has shown that good-quality human rights education may support students to undertake actions for human rights. However, less is known about the relationships between students’ individual backgrounds, the diverse ways in which they understand human rights, and their willingness to undertake actions for human rights. The aim of this study was to find ways to educate young adult students with diverse backgrounds to undertake actions for human rights.

The study participants were carrying out their non-military service in 2017–2018. They took part in one of six human rights courses, designed and taught by the author. Data collection and analysis were a combination of a student voice approach and Convergent Case Design (Mixed Methods). The data consisted of survey answers and interviews conducted after the courses. Three analyses were carried out: a typology construction, a statistical analysis, and a thematic analysis.

The main results of this study are the following: First, four ideal types characterizing distinct stances toward undertaking actions for human rights were identified. These types showed the concrete ways in which the students interpreted their human rights obligations and the changes in their willingness to undertake these actions over the course. Second, the examination of the relationships between social class indicators and willingness to undertake actions for human rights revealed that students who only had a vocational education and who had less cultural capital were less willing to undertake actions for human rights. Third, the thematic analysis identified various obstacles that limit the students’ engagements in actions for human rights. The students reported practical difficulties that hindered them from undertaking actions for human rights.

All in all, the study contributes to research on human rights education by offering a more nuanced explanation of different students’ various considerations regarding undertaking actions for human rights. The findings help clarify which options are at the teachers’ disposal for finding human rights subjects that are more relevant to the students’ practical situations. The results also imply that good-quality human rights education during childhood could enable young adults to undertake actions for human rights, as before the course they did not seem to know enough about the topic.
Last updated: 7.11.2022