December 15, 2021

New educational content for Norwegian schools about the rights of persons with disabilities

New educational content for Norwegian schools about the rights of persons with disabilities

These days, in the run up to the Global Disability Summit in February 2022 (GDS22), the Atlas Alliance is heavily focused on mobilization. The GDS is a rare occasion where the world’s focus will be on the rights of persons with disabilities, and the aim of the mobilizing efforts is that the GDS will be on everyone’s lips and minds - not just those of disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs).

In August 2021, the Atlas Alliance hosted a panel debate with the former Norwegian Minister of International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein, who stated that he wants the GDS to be a “Paris moment”; a conference everybody knows about and eagerly follows in the hope that it will produce ground-breaking results. For that to happen children and youth also need to be informed.

The current national curriculum in Norwegian schools focuses very little on the rights of the largest minority group of all – persons with disabilities. The hope is that the new curriculum will raise children’s and future generations’ knowledge of what it means to face a society full of barriers and negative attitudes, and how initiatives like the Global Disability Summit are examples of joining forces across borders with the agenda to change the world.

The United Nations Association of Norway and the Atlas Alliance partnered in the fall 2021 to create teaching materials for elementary and middle school about disability inclusion, and the rights and realities of persons with disabilities in the Global South – where the vast majority of persons with disabilities live. The new teaching materials address essential principles such as “Nothing about us without us”, and key goals for development, governance, and inclusive international cooperation like “Leave no one behind”.

The resources will be launched before the Global Disability Summit and will be available to all educators in Norwegian language. The contents fit very well with the existing compulsory subject matter in Norwegian schools on society, diversity, discrimination, democracy, human rights etc., where teachers to a large extent can decide on how they want to teach the content.

By making disability a frequently visited topic in class, schools can contribute to reducing social stigma, and creating more openness, knowledge, and inclusion as well as increased enthusiasm for equality among the future decision makers in Norway.

Getting schools involved really matters to future generations and can be an effective tool for changing attitudes long term. Other countries may have more focus on disability inclusion in their schools, but if not, civil society could enter partnerships like this one, or advocate to ensure children learn more about the rights of persons with disabilities from the get-go.