FINAL “START THE CHANGE” CONFERENCE HELD IN ZAGREB WITH OVER 100 PARTICIPANTS

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On 29th of November 2022, over 100 participants from Croatia, North Macedonia, Portugal and Belgium gathered in Zagreb to wrap up three years of work on the topic of the voice of children and young people and their participation in the school context, to present the results, but also to discover new spaces for further work and cooperation on this topic.

The conference thus had both an educational and work character, especially for a group of students from Portugal and Croatia who were part of the project in their schools, and at the conference themselves worked on their messages and their view of recommendations for decision makers. They told us that they are not looking for the impossible, that this topic is extremely important and that even a small shift in listening and appreciating their voice has a great impact on them, their satisfaction and self-confidence. However, they also ask about the continuity of the changes that have started and point to the importance of continuing such projects and establishing a sustainable system for their strong and meaningful participation. From Croatia, students from the Bjelovar Commercial and Trade School and the Vrapče Nursing School and from Portugal (schools) made a special contribution to this part.

The conference was opened and closed by the students themselves, with their messages that they shaped through music – at the beginning the student of Bjelovar Gymnasium Patricija Špoljarić performed her song “Biti iskren”, and at the very end the student of the same school Ante Krešić performed his song “Color the world”.

Adults, on the other hand, had the opportunity to think more deeply about this topic through the lecture of Ana Munivrana, the executive director of the Forum “Voice of children in a grown-ups’ system: what do they say?”, while in a panel discussion led by Mialy Dermish, they heard about experiences from North Macedonia (Biljana Nikolovska Prlja), Croatia (Višnja Pavlović and Maja Feil Ostojić) and Portugal (Monica Sousa) – the participants shared their thoughts from different perspectives (principal, teacher and researcher) about what “voice of children” means for us adults and how the project’s activities affected adults, students, but also the entire school community. The participants had the opportunity to hear in more detail about the successes of the project in schools from Croatia (Ivan Meštrović Primary School, Bjelovar Primary School and Vrapče Primary School), Portugal (S .Bernardo elementary school, José Estevão secondary school and The school cluster of Loureiro) and North Macedonia (School Braka Miladinovci Skopje and Secondary Vocational School Pero Nakov – Kumanovo).

The last panel discussion led by Ivana Borić from the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation in Zagreb, with the participation of Nikola Baketa (IDIZ, Croatia), Biljana Trajkovska (Ministry of Education and Science, N. Macedonia) and Luis J. Oliveira Fardilha (IPDJ, Portugal) emphasized the importance of student participation as the key to improving the inclusiveness of school communities.

At the conference, we also presented a series of publications created as part of the project, which you can find on this website in the Library. The latest publications are “Strengthening student participation – guidelines for educational policies” and the “Book of Good Ideas” which shows all the efforts and work of the schools involved in the project from the perspective of the students.

We don’t ask for the impossible, we don’t expect only our wishes to be listened to and us to set the rules. We are just looking for a greater balance between the voice of the adults and us.

Students – conference participants

Some statements from the written evaluations:

We need to include this topics in schools and educate teachers and policy makers about these important questions Children need to participate more and be more actively involved in educational processes.

 I really liked the event and thought the themes approached were relevant and

important. I liked that the children had a chance to express themselves and

participate in the conferences. I hope to participate more often.

I like the support and encouragement we ( were greeted with I love the

interpersonal communication among us.

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