Human rights: Social values and concerns


Upper primary/Lower secondary

Curriculum Links

Links to the Australian Curriculum

Research Task

The values and concerns that people have affect thoughts and actions. Laws, human rights and government policies are all influenced by values and concerns.

What social values and concerns are important in your community? In this research activity you can find out what people in your school and community think about some issues. Then you can compare your results with those from a published study. This research can be done individually or as a class activity.

Collecting Information

You will collect information on opinions about the following areas:

  • personal safety
  • economic development
  • cost of living
  • education and culture
  • moral civilisation
  • health and welfare
  • pollution
  • employment
  • citizens' rights
  • national security

Make data collection sheets with each of these items in a list. Then ask people to mark 1-5 to indicate their top five concerns. Ask them to put a '5' beside the thing that is most important to them, a '4' beside the second most important and so on to the fifth most important.

This collection can be made in your school or in your community or both. Be sure to explain to people that you are collecting information about what values and concerns are important to them. You might say something like:

'We are collecting information in my class about people's attitudes about their values and concerns. Would you please take a few minutes to mark your first five concerns from this list? You do not need to put your name on the sheet.'

Making Sense

After you have collected information, you have to make sense of it. Whether you collected the information alone or as a group, you have to combine the responses.

Draw up a new list of the items and tally up the responses. For each item, add up the scores given by the people you interviewed. The item with the highest score is the one which is considered to be the most important, the item with the lowest score is the one considered least important. Write down the top five in order from first to fifth.

  • What are your results?
  • How can you explain these?
  • Why do you think they ended up in that order?
  • Compare your results with the information other people collected.
  • Are your results the same as the larger group?
  • How do these results compare with your own ideas?

Think about what action might follow from these results. If you had to decide how to use money in your community, how would you spend it to meet these top five concerns? You may want to write a report about your research for the local paper or talk to your local council about these concerns.

Comparing Information

In 1997 there was a survey using the same issues you have researched. It was done by the Dentsu Institute of Human Studies in Tokyo, Japan. They collected information from people in six Asian cities from countries that are Australia's neighbours. The results of that survey are given below:

Top Five Social Concerns

Respondents were asked to choose from the following items: Personal safety, Economic development, Cost of living, Education and culture, Moral civilisation, Health and welfare, Pollution, Employment, Citizens' rights, National security.

Personal safetyEconomic developmentHealth and welfareEconomic developmentEconomic development
Economic developmentNational securityCost of livingHealth and welfareCost of living
Cost of livingEducation and cultureEconomic developmentCost of livingEducation and culture
Education and cultureHealth and welfarePollutionEducation and cultureHealth and welfare
Moral civilisationPersonal safetyEmploymentCitizens' rightsPollution

Dentsu Institute of Human Studies, Tokyo 1997

How do your results compare with these? What is similar? What is different? How would you explain those?


The unit 'Human Rights' in the Discovering Democracy School Materials Project has activities and information for secondary students. This unit includes an examination of values and cultures in defining and defending human rights. The materials were sent to all secondary schools in Australia in November 1998.

The book Voices and Values: Citizenship in Asia explores traditional and new values related to citizenship in the Asian region. Topics include values, rights and responsibilities within the areas of family and community, schools, environmental and population issues and national identity. This book is part of the Access Asia series of teaching and learning materials published by Curriculum Corporation. A Voices and Values website has also been developed to complement the publication.

Back to Lower Secondary Teaching and Learning Activities