Step by step in strengthening student voice in Start the Change project!

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First policy component activity in the Start the Change project Policy lab 1: Policy and practice to Start the Change was held in May 2021, as an online event. It gathered over 60 participants, policy makers, teachers, school leaders and support staff as well as NGO representatives from the project implementing countries and NEPC region together with the Consortium. Main aim of the event was to introduce and raise awareness on the topic of students’ participation and importance of students’ voices in connection with policy change.

Participants were introduced with the theoretical background to the topic of the importance of students’ voice and the data regarding the existing policies in the relation to students’ participation in the project implementing countries as well as in the countries with high students’ participation (The Netherlands and Estonia). The comparative report Student voice as a token of a quality school – observations by students from selected schools in Portugal, North Macedonia and Croatia on active participation, relationships and classes during the COVID-19 crisis was also presented as a discussion opener and motivation for exchange of experiences in practices among participants.

Main conclusion of the event is that there is lack of awareness about the importance of the students’ participation both on national and school levels. However, the need for the students to be involved in decision making, especially on school level was recognized as the basis where students can experience the democratic participation first-hand, make biggest contributions and their participation can have the strongest impact which is extremely important and beneficial for students but also for the society in general.

NEPC and SIRIUS, as a lead partners in charge of policy, promotion and dissemination of results will prepare a position paper in which the policies and approach to students’ participation in the project implementing countries as well as in the countries with strong students’ participation will be described together with main conclusions, inputs and issues that were raised during the policy event.

In final comments of participants, the teacher from North Macedonia shared her opinion on importance of student voice:

We grade students based on their capacity to memorize things and in this way we don’t stimulate critical thinking but we only stimulate and reward students who do not give new ideas, new subjects, we are only supporters of the ideas that already exist among us.

… in my opinion, we have to work to strengthen their self-confidence and their awareness about their own importance. I believe this is the only way in which we can make change this situation for a longer term, so that the students that come out of our school can contribute to the society in the future.

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