Rights respecting schools for students, teachers and school directors

Where child rights are learned, taught, practised, respected and protected

UNICEF Thailand
Students living in the far south of Thailand are playing happily in their classroom.
UNICEF Thailand/2012/Jingjai N.
05 July 2021

The rights of children in Thailand are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2017 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, the National Child and Youth Development Promotion Act of 2007, the Child Protection Act of 2003 and the National Education Act – and students do not set aside these fundamental rights at the school gate. Schools should teach children about their rights, as well as respect and ensure them.

What does a rights respecting school look like?

  • Everyone in the school, including children with disabilities, migrant and stateless children and ethnic and other minority groups, is involved in how the school is governed and managed.
  • Mutual respect, dignity and non-discrimination are promoted among students, teachers, parents and the wider community.
  • Students learn about and promote human and child rights in the curriculum and extracurricular activities.
  • A human rights culture develops in the school, a safe and inclusive space for all.

For students in Thailand: Know your rights at school

Getting an education isn’t just about books and grades – you are also learning how to participate fully in your society. To do that, you need to know your rights. These rights must always be respected and ensured unconditionally, but it can be helpful to understand in which cases you are most protected.

  • You have the right to express yourself in school and the right to speak your mind on social media – as long as your actions don’t harm others’ rights or conflict with school rules that are in line with the Ministry of Education’s school guidelines and regulations.
  • You have the right to participate in peaceful protests off campus just as any other citizen. Schools can discipline you if you miss class as they would for regular absences, but they cannot discipline you because of the message or the political nature of your actions.
  • If you were exposed to or witnessed violence in school, report it immediately and in a responsible, confidential way to your parents and school staff overseeing child protection – the school should follow up quickly and effectively in line with their rules and regulations and provide links to specialized services for physical and mental health support. Call 1300 for the government’s 24-hour hotline to report violence against children or download the new Child Protection mobile app of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, available on iOS and Android.
  • You can protect your student rights and interests by joining or consulting with your student council – they help share ideas and concerns with teachers and school directors; raise funds for school events, projects and charitable causes; and contribute to school reform. Exercising your agency as a student doesn’t have to stop there and can involve everything from volunteering to social innovation!

For teachers and school directors in Thailand: Educate about, through and for human rights

Realizing the rights of all children at school, acting in children’s best interests and ensuring their safety is the primary responsibility of all school staff as duty-bearers. Instead of integrating child rights into certain classroom activities, a whole school approach to child rights will ensure that every student can feel safer, supported, engaged and believed.

  • Facilitate students’ learning about all their rights, not just selectively, and about respect for each other’s rights in a way that is clear and accessible to their age group.
  • Treat students as citizens of the present – they have roles and rights now, not just as future adult citizens.
  • Be a positive role model for students by showing respect for the rights of others.
  • Create safe spaces for students to voice their ideas in school and mechanisms to ensure that they are heard – as instructed by the Ministry of Education to all schools for promoting the freedom of expression.
  • Hold back from limiting speech or taking disciplinary action against students – instead, use controversies as teachable moments through positive discipline rather than punishment.
  • Schools have a duty to step in when students bully, harass or use words as a weapon against each other. Measures will depend on the local education authority and school but must never involve corporal punishment, which is illegal in Thailand, or intimidation.
  • Condemn, prevent and immediately respond to all violence in schools and fairly enforce a child protection policy that includes confidential reporting channels and a referral pathway for students to counselling and child protection services as well as a system for redress within a set timeframe.

If you think that your school is restricting students’ rights but aren’t sure, call 02-288-5795 for the Office of the Basic Education Commission’s (OBEC) Student Protection Center. Call 1579 for the Ministry of Education hotline to report student rights violations.

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