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Promoting clarity on children’s participation

The far-reaching reforms of the Chinese education system have created new opportunities for promoting more student-centred and child-friendly approaches to teaching and learning. A UNICEF-supported pilot project on children’s participation in schools in China’s Gansu province is being used to inform education programmes in other parts of the country.

During a recent review of the project, children, teachers and local education officials talked of the practical challenges in enabling students to express their views, make decisions related to their education and contribute to the improvement of the school and learning environment.

The review of the project pilot revealed a lack of clarity regarding the concepts of children’s rights, children’s participation and the child-friendly school approach, highlighting the tensions between old and new approaches to education. “Children’s participation challenges existing adult-child relationships and thus creates resistance among some adults,” notes Joachim Theis, UNICEF Regional Project Officer for Youth and Partnership, who took part in the review of the pilot project.
 Theis proposed some key recommendations for taking the pilot project further: Develop a short and straightforward frequently-asked-questions guide that addresses concerns and misconceptions; develop a clear benchmarking tool for planning and assessing children’s participation, with a focus on students’ control over decisions; and develop standards that clarify what children’s participation is about and that provide guidance but are adapted to specific school environments and developed together with children, teachers, headmasters and education officials.

Children’s participation: consult children; children’s control over decisions; children’s contributions. Importance of an environment that enables children to express their views and to make decisions: supportive adults, free education, lack of corporal punishment, teachers with the skills and confidence to encourage children to think independently and ask critical questions.





Additional reading

Shier, Harry. "Pathways to participation: openings, opportunities and obligations." Children and Society, 15 (2), 2001: 107-117.

UNICEF EAPRO. Adolescent development: realizing their potential: a discussion paper. March 2005.


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