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Equality through curriculum innovation

Equality through curriculum innovation: South African and Finnish adolescents

dialoguing human rights, and religious and cultural diversity – joint research project


Project Start Date: 1 August 2013
Project End Date: 30 July 2016
Partners: North West University (Potchefstroom Campus), South Africa and University of Helsinki, Department of Teacher Education Discipline: Education (human rights and diversity)


Principal Investigators:
Prof. Petro du Preez
North West University (Potchefstroom Campus), South Africa Faculty of Education Sciences petro.dupreez@nwu.ac.za / drpdupreez@gmail.com

Prof. Arto Kallioniemi University of Helsinki Department of Teacher Education Faculty of Behavioural Sciences arto.j.kallioniemi@helsinki.fi

Researchers in South Africa:
Prof. Cornelia Roux
Prof. Saloshna Vandeyar
Ms. Shan Simmonds
Dr. Annamagriet de Wet
Dr. Glynis Parker
Ms Valerie Mokharemoso
Ms. Anne Becker (PhD 2013)
Ms. Mercy Kutu (Nigerian)
Ms. Alice Pedro

Researchers in Finland
Prof. Fred Dervin
Adjunct Prof. Martin Ubani
Dr. Arniika Kuusisto
Dr. Mia Matilainen
Dr. Eero Salmenkivi
MTh. Marjaana Kavonius
MEd. Saila Poulter (PhD 2013)



An increase in social marginalisation and inequality as a result of religious and cultural diversity in an ever more cosmopolitan context marked by immigration, poverty and democratisation, necessitates an investigation into how equality could be increased through curriculum innovations. The necessity of such innovations is endorsed by research recently conducted that indicated that children are most affected by inequality and that inequality will persist into the next generation if not addressed soon.  One avenue of addressing matters of social marginalisation and inequality is through creating safe spaces for adolescents – the next generation – to engage in dialogue about human rights, and religious and cultural diversity.  Research has indicated that extensive dialogue could lead interlocutors to a better understanding of one another and increase mutual respect that is essential in attending to matters of social marginalisation and inequality.

In the context of the above, this project will aim to promote equality through curriculum development processes that encourages, especially adolescents (aged 16) in South Africa and Finland, to engage in dialogue about human rights, and religious and cultural diversity in an attempt to address social marginalisation and overcome inequalities.  A theoretical and empirical (quantitative and qualitative) investigation will be undertaken into adolescents’ knowledge, attitudes and understandings of human rights, and cultural and religious diversity.  The data from South Africa and Finland will be compared.  In the first phase of the project a survey will be conducted in the two countries to act as a contextual map for the remainder of the project.  In the second phase, photovoice-narratives as a methodology will be employed to provide an in-depth understanding of the adolescents’ constructions of human rights, and religious and cultural diversity.  In the third phase, focus group interviews and a dialogue on electronic platform between the adolescents from the two countries will be orchestrated.  Toward the end, the “think theory with data” approach will be used to consolidate the findings and translate it into new knowledge constructs.  An online event will also be organised for teachers in Finland and South Africa to learn how to link up students from both contexts and to reflect upon their curriculum praxis regarding human rights, and religious and cultural diversity beyond national borders.  The research process outlined here requires a 50:50 cooperation between the researchers from Finland and South Africa.

Besides the theoretical contribution that this study will make, it will also aid in developing curriculum related strategies (based on the voices of adolescents) for enabling safe spaces in classrooms so that adolescents could engage in critical dialogues to overcome inequality through an enhanced understanding of human rights, and cultural and religious diversity.

Key words: human rights, human rights education, adolescence, religious and cultural diversity