The Rights of Children: The best that we have to give

The Rights of Children: The best that we have to give

May 4, 2018

The ongoing professional learning of faculty and staff at our school is an important part of our educational mission. Each academic year, we schedule a few professional development days to examine matters of professional importance in greater detail. These are often complex and evolving matters that require our focused attention to remain current in our understandings and practices, both in the classroom and beyond. 

At our professional development day last Monday, we focused on child protection and wellbeing, from a both a legal and educational perspective. A short history of international protections of child rights was shared with faculty and staff.

It may come as something of a surprise for members of our community to learn that international recognition of the rights of children is only a relatively recent phenomenon. The League of Nations issued a proclamation on 26 September, 1924 that for the first time recognized the special rights of children through the Declaration of Geneva. One of its key tenets was the idea that mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give.  Among other things, the Declaration stated that we owe child the right to education, nourishment, relief from distress, and the development of talent for self-sufficiency in adult life. These ideas may seem self-evident in the 21st century, but just 94 years ago, they were quite revolutionary.



Following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the United Nations expanded the principles of the original League of Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 to include 10 essential principles. The UN Declaration added the notion of child equality and universal ‘brotherhood’, the child’s right to a name and a nationality, the right of the child to be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty, and exploitation. Most interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, the Declaration also included an explicit statement that children had the right to enjoy the understanding and love of parents and the wider community. 

Of course, a declaration of ‘rights’ does not amount to a directive for signatory countries to change laws or even national culture. The Declaration was little more than a statement of guiding principles, rather than binding laws. In 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations enacted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC; source: ). This document set out the civil, political, economic, social, health, cultural, and educational rights of children in 54 comprehensive articles. To date, not all UN member countries have elected to ratify the CRCE; those that have, are legally bound by it. The United Kingdom signed the Convention and extended ratification of the CRC to Hong Kong in 1994.

In Hong Kong, many of our ordinances contain principles and regulations that protect the rights and interests of children: the Crimes Ordinance, Cap 200; the Evidence Ordinance, Cap 8; the Offences Against the Person Ordinance, Cap 212; the Protection of Children and Juvenile Ordinance, Cap 213; the Education Ordinance, Cap 279; the Employment of Children Regulations, Cap 57B; the Toys and Children’s Products Safety Ordinance Cap 424; the Child Abduction and Custody Ordinance, Cap 512; and; and the Prevention of Child Pornography Ordinance, Cap 579. These ordinances confer the right for authorities to take steps to protect children, including the power to search premises, assume custody of a child in need of assistance, protect against child harm or exploitation, and generally promote the welfare of children. 



Our school is also bound by accreditation standards and professional codes relating to the safety, care, and education of children. All educators in Hong Kong are required to observe the Council on Professional Conduct in Education’s Professional Code for Educators (1990), which includes a section that sets out the essential human rights of the child in Hong Kong schools.

As a school accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), our whole community is also bound by the 65 standards in nine domains of the CIS International Accreditation 2016. It is noteworthy that eight of the nine domains have 14 standards directly related to the wellbeing and safeguarding of children.


As a learning community, as we prepare ourselves to undergo reaccreditation in the coming months, culminating in a Team Evaluation in December, 2019, it is well worth our time and effort to reaffirm our understanding of the fundamental rights of our children in our school and our essential responsibility to protect and care for them. We owe our children the best we have to give.


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School

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