‘Human rights and democracy are not self-evident’: Finnish student teachers’ perceptions on democracy and human rights education





This article discusses democracy and human rights education (DHRE) in Finnish teacher education, drawing on existing literature, curricula and a survey of student teachers’ perceptions. Earlier studies suggested that DHRE in Finnish teacher education is unsystematic, implicit, and dependent on the teacher’s individual interests. These studies highlight a sense of national exceptionalism, where DHRE is assumed to be self-evident. In 2019, we conducted a survey of student teachers (n=300) in one university. Data content analysis reveals that student teachers now see DHRE as relevant and timely, and by no means self-evident. Student teachers believe that DHRE needs to be explicit and part of their professional education. Although the Finnish national curriculum addresses DHRE explicitly, there is a lack of implementation and explicit DHRE teacher education. We contend that the data reflects societal change, and that the notion that democracy and human rights are self-evident needs to be challenged in Finland.


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Author Biographies

Tuija Kasa, University of Helsinki

Doctoral candidate Tuija Kasa (M.Soc.Sci., subject teacher in philosophy, psychology and ethics) does her PhD on human rights education (HRE) and works as a project planner in Human Rights, Democracy, Values and Dialogue in Education -project (2018-2021) at the University of Helsinki developing democracy and HRE in teacher education. She has diverse working experience on democracy and HRE in academia, governmental and non-governmental institutions.

Matti Rautiainen, University of Jyväskylä

Dr. Matti Rautiainen (Ph.D. in education) is senior lecturer in pedagogy of history and social sciences at the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Jyväskylä. His research interests are pedagogy of history, educating for democracy and teacher education. Rautiainen has been developing and studying twenty years education for democracy in teacher education.


Mia Malama, Unicef

Dr. Mia Malama (Ph.D. in education) is a dedicated educationalist with a track record of researching, lecturing and advising on education, nationally and internationally. Her PhD thesis (2011) focused on human rights education. She has many years of experience as a senior adviser on child rights and education in UNICEF, and before that as a senior lecturer and researcher in the department of teacher education at the University of Helsinki, Finland.


Arto Kallioniemi, University of Helsinki

Professor Arto Kallioniemi (Ph.D. in education) holds UNESCO Chair on Values, Dialogue and Human Rights and serves as a Vice Dean focusing in international affairs, societal interaction and equality at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. He is specialized in religious and worldview education and is interested in issues related to inter-worldview dialogue and human rights. He is a member of Finnish Human Rights Committee. He has published academic books.


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How to Cite

Kasa, T., Rautiainen, M., Malama, M., & Kallioniemi, A. (2021). ‘Human rights and democracy are not self-evident’: Finnish student teachers’ perceptions on democracy and human rights education. Human Rights Education Review, 4(2), 69–84. https://doi.org/10.7577/hrer.3937



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