It's more than giving students 'a say'

It's more than giving students 'a say'

Thursday, July 09, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Student participation in decision-making refers to the work of student representative bodies such as students' councils, student parliaments, and the prefect bodies. It is also a term used to encompass all aspects of school life and decision-making in which students may make a contribution.

Over the last few years there have been increased calls for increasing the extent of inclusion of students in decision-making, especially at the tertiary level. But student participation in decision-making in schools is often viewed as problematic to school administrators. This is often due to the fact that students are viewed as immature and lacking in the expertise and technical knowledge needed in running a school. Thus, student participation in decision-making is often confined to issues concerned with student welfare and not core governance issues.

Many youngsters feel a sense of disengagement with their schools. At the same time, society is quick to blame us for being the root of the problems that challenge our Jamaican schools. But Dana L Mitra, in her newly released book Student Voice in School Reform, offers an imaginative question: What might happen if we view youth as part of the solution, rather than as part of the problem?

The concept of increasing students' voices in schools broadens the notion of distributed leadership to include considering young people themselves as capable and valuable members of a school community who can help initiate and implement educational change. Students' voice is more than just students “having a say” and “being heard”. To be successful, schools must value the perspectives and opinions of students, and act on them in a way that genuinely shapes learning and decision-making.

Partnering with students to identify school problems and possible solutions reminds teachers and administrators that students possess unique knowledge and perspectives about their schools that these so-called experts cannot fully replicate.

I urge the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as well as school administrators to do more to involve our youth.

Dylan Ashman

Student advocate

Church Teachers' College

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