Challenges and possibilities for transformative human rights education in Icelandic upper secondary schools




Transformative human rights education (HRE) implies a pedagogic intention to generate human rights cultures, protecting against and preventing human rights violations. This article draws on Freirean critical pedagogy to define transformative HRE as requiring four pedagogical principles: an explicit pedagogic intention; critical engagement on purposes of education; a critical holistic approach; and cosmopolitan perspectives. A thematic analysis of ten upper secondary school teachers’ narratives on working with human rights in Iceland reveals reliance on tacit rather than explicit pedagogical intentions, a lack of critical engagement on purposes of education, and limited opportunities to develop human rights and HRE knowledge, inhibiting a critical holistic approach and cosmopolitan perspectives. However, the narratives offer content and contexts that provide possibilities to develop the four pedagogical principles required for transformative HRE through processes of critical relational dialogue. This paper raises questions of significance for teacher education in Iceland and internationally.


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Author Biography

Sue E. Gollifer, University of Iceland, Iceland

Sue E. Gollifer is a lecturer in the Department of International Studies of Education at the University of Iceland. She holds a doctorate in Human Rights Education from the University of Iceland. Her research areas include human rights education as a transformative pedagogy to develop social and ecological wellbeing; relational approaches in teacher education; and internationalisation of higher education in the context of increasing student diversity.  


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How to Cite

Gollifer, S. E. (2022). Challenges and possibilities for transformative human rights education in Icelandic upper secondary schools. Human Rights Education Review, 5(3), 4–20.



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