The Journey to Making Schools Child Friendly
Child Friendly Schools: The Concept
The Child Friendly School (CFS) model is a broad concept that has been developed by UNICEF and its partners, incorporating the latest thinking in pedagogy and child development as a way to promote quality education in schools. The concept first emerged in the mid 1990s and has evolved over time to become the most comprehensive and widely-used approach.
The CFS model is a simple one at heart: Schools should operate in the best interests of the child. Educational environments must be safe, healthy and protective, endowed with trained teachers, adequate resources and appropriate physical, emotional and social conditions for learning. Within them, children’s rights must be protected and their voices must be heard. Learning environments must be a haven for children to learn and grow, with innate respect for their identities and varied needs. The CFS model promotes inclusiveness, gender-sensitivity, tolerance, dignity and personal empowerment.
CFS environments build upon the assets that children bring from their homes and communities, respecting their unique backgrounds and circumstances. At the same time, the CFS model compensates for any shortcomings in the home and community that might make it difficult for children to enrol in school, attend regularly and succeed in their studies. For example, if there is a food shortage in the community, school-feeding programmes can provide children both with the nutrition they so critically need and the incentive to stay in school and get an education.
The CFS model also builds partnerships between schools and the community. Since children have the right to be fully prepared to become active and productive citizens, their learning must be linked to the wider community.
The CFS model is not a rigid blueprint, or a final destination at which schools arrive. UNICEF recognizes that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for improving quality education in schools. The model is rather a pathway to foster the progressive realization of children’s right to a quality education, one that is constantly being shaped by the full involvement and support of all parties who are in a position to facilitate this right, and one that gradually moves schools and education systems towards quality standards.
CFS in Jamaica
While enrolment and attendance from early childhood through secondary schools is generally high in Jamaica, the quality of services in the education system is often poor. Persistently high levels of violence in homes, communities and schools have devastating implications for children in their quest to learn and thrive. The Ministry of Education is leading a comprehensive programme to transform the education system, systematically addressing the negative practices both within schools and surrounding communities which impede every child’s right to a quality education.
Under this transformative process, a new initiative is underway to outlaw corporal punishment in all schools (it is currently banned only in early childhood institutions) and introduce positive alternative forms of discipline. Corporal punishment remains the dominant form of discipline in Jamaica: eighty-seven percent of children aged 2-14 are subjected to at least one form of psychological or physical punishment.
When the CFS model was introduced to Jamaica in February 2009, at a regional workshop held for over 50 education experts, Education Minister Hon. Andrew Holness fully embraced the concept as a timely and fitting model to help shape Jamaica’s ongoing efforts to improve the education system. The Minister made a commitment to champion the movement to create more child friendly schools not only within Jamaica, but throughout the region.
At this workshop UNICEF presented the CFS manual: a practical tool designed to help countries develop the national capacity to design, construct, maintain, operate and manage child friendly schools.
Rolling out CFS
Since then, UNICEF has been working closely with the Ministry of Education and other partners to ensure that education practitioners across the island understand and embrace the CFS concept. In June 2009, the national CFS sensitization programme was launched, along with a national public education campaign to promote the use of alternative methods of discipline in school.
The CFS model is a unifying banner concept – an umbrella under which the various education transformation efforts can find a home together. It equips schools with an approach to improve quality education in five key areas:
1. Quality learners
2. Quality content
3. Quality teaching-learning processes
4. Quality learning environments
5. Quality outcomes
Over the coming months and years, components of the CFS model will be piloted in selected schools across Jamaica. Emphasis will be placed in the first stages on removing corporal punishment and replacing it with positive forms of discipline which are more conducive to learning and less harmful to children.