Transforming Education with Youth Participation: a work in progress

On August 12 we celebrate Youth Day to raise awareness about the fact that transforming education to make it truly inclusive is still a work in progress. On this day, we need to acknowledge the need for all parties to transform education by working across sectors and acknowledging the importance of everyone’s ideas, regardless of age, race, gender or any other false limitations that may prevent some voices to be heard.

Youth on the forefront of progressive social movements

Youth will always be one of the main actors in education. Historically youth has stood on the forefront of the most progressive social movements and has provided alternative solutions to the traditional problems of society. In 1968 student uprisings across the world fought dictatorships, state repression and colonization. More recently, students are still demanding change and continue to challenge those in power. The protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing 1989, the student protests in Nicaragua initiated in April 2018, in Colombia, in Brazil, the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the huge mobilizations for climate change, especially in Europe, and the uprisings in Sudan are just a few examples of the power of the youth. These events all showed youth leading the movement towards the future.

According to the UN:

“There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.”

Today we are discussing how we can transform education. I would like to raise the question: Can we really say that we are transforming education if youth, which represents 23% of the world population, and students are not included in shaping Education Policy?

Youth Can Bring Innovation to Education

Youth can bring to education the innovation that it is lacking. For example, in my middle school the curriculum had basically stayed the same for the past 40 years, two generations received the exact same education. Does it make sense to educate a person in 2019 the same way as in 1980 when the Berlin wall was still standing, and the Internet did not exist! So, what did we do as youth? We started innovating! With other students we started writing a new curriculum and step by step we perfected it: we did surveys with the other students to understand what their needs were, we met with the teachers to get their specialised knowledge and finally, we met with the chancellor of the University, who incorporated our ideas in the curriculum which is being used right now.

The smoke cloud surrounding policy making needs to dissipate

This is how education can be transformed: by allowing youth participation, by listening to their feedback, and by providing tools to help their ideas materialise.

The responsibilities to include youth does not only rest with school authorities; the state is accountable as well. There should be a national youth board in every country. States should consult with youth groups from different backgrounds, races, gender, about their public education policies. The smoke cloud surrounding public policy needs to dissipate.

Youth will make their voices heard because they are the future.  Exclusion and repression have never managed to stop the you. To the Youth around the world who are experiencing repression right now like in Sudan, I want to echo Pablo Neruda words: “They can cut all the flowers, but they cannot stop the spring.”

 

Author: Felipe Urbas Sinópoli, Latin-America and the Caribbean Youth Advocate



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