Children’s rights

Jérémie Beja’s interview

Hello Jérémie Béja, in addition to being a LIFT pupil’s parent, you also are an international technical expert on human rights. Last week, we celebrated children’s rights international day. Can you tell us more about the way this theme is covered in Taïwan?

Children’s rights day comes from the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and even more from the adoption of the Convention related to children’s rights in 1989. Because of Taiwan special status on the international scene, Taiwan is not a signatory of the convention. However, since 2009, the legislative Yuan started transposing the main international conventions protecting the human rights in the Taiwanese law by voting laws that repeats texts of the conventions.

Taïwan is not a member of UNO, how is the application of these agreements verified?

Taïwan developed a special control system of the application fo these agreements strongly inspired of UNO’s practice. Every four or five years, an independent experts committee comes in Taipei for a week and meets ministers, NGO and representatives of the people protected by these agreements. For instance, one of these committees cam on mid-november to assess the application of the agreement relative to the children’s rights. This morning (in case of a publication next friday) the committee that assesses the application of the convention for the elimination of discriminations towards women (CEDAW) just published its list of recommendations to the taiwanese authorities.

What were the main recommendations of the experts committee regarding children’s rights?

While acknowledging the efforts deployed by the taiwanese authorities during these last five years and the progress made in many fields, the experts committee gave a list of seventy recommendations (it is a current practice, France received more then ninety in 2016). To stay in the school field, main concerns expressed by the committee are about the extrem competitivity of the school system that leads to serious infringements to the right to rest and to play of the taiwanese children (especially because of the quantity of homework and the widespread nature of buxiban). It also says that this competitivity is a possible cause of the particularly high suicidal rate of the young taiwanese and prompt the authorities to make further enquiry on that matter. It also worries about physical and psychological violence of the teaching staff on the children and shortcomings of the current prevention system, that triggers a disciplinary enquiry only after tangible evidence of physical violence.

How can or must the children’s rights dialog with a school activity?

Children’s right must be integrated into all the school activities and not only taught separately even if we can obviously imagine adapted formats to make the pupils know about the children’s rights agreement. One must at all costs avoid the “box ticking” syndrome that would consist in for instance developing a course on children’s right agreement while neglecting the rights written in it in everyday’s school life. Respecting the children’s rights is thus as much a performative process, a philosophy to integrate within the pedagogy than the development of infrastructures of punctual mechanisms.

What would your practical and immediate recommendations be for LIFT?

It seems to me that LIFT already puts the hild’s interest at the heart of its pedagogical principles. It limits homeworks, thus favors children’s right to rest and ro play, favors group work and “decentralizes” the teacher’s role.

I am not an expert in children’s rights, far from it, nor a teacher or an educator so it is difficult for me to make immediate recommendations. I imagine that in the long term, with the opening of new classes and the increase of the age range, maybe will it be necessary to think about a system to prevent physical and psychological violence. Indeed, the use of smartphones and social networks by children more and more young made the number of online public humiliation phenomenons explode, especially middle schoolers. It is one of the issues covered by the children’s right ombudsman in its 2022 annual report. We can already think to set up an anonymous complaints system for children. It is not about favoring denunciation but to enable the children to express their issues. Nonetheless, we need to make sure we are able to answer it quickly, otherwise install a message box without treating the request can be worse than not having a box at all.

What is for you and for your children the most important part in a school?

You would have asked me this question before I contribute to the international experts’ review of the application of the children’s rights agreement, I would have answered a list of criterias more or less objective or personnel. During these conclusions, President of experts committee reminded that one of the goals of the Agreement was to make sure that any child is happy to go to school and can self-fulfill there. It is without a doubt a commonplace, but it is important to remind it from time to time. As a parent we can quickly get obsessed by the grade or the will to see your child enter in the prestigious schools/universities to guarantee its future. It is of course a natural feeling, but it is good to also remind oneself of the importance of his/her everyday happiness.