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- PublicationWhat does 'equality' mean for children in relation to adults? Addressing Inequalities: The Heart of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Future We Want for All. Global Thematic Consultation(CESESMA, 2012-10)This paper asks how the idea of ’equality’ between children and adults can be made a reality in the post 2015 development agenda. ‘Non-discrimination’ is a fundamental principle of children’s rights discourse, but is invariably thought of in terms of equality among children, not as equality between children and adults, while discrimination by adults against children is an accepted social norm. Also there is no equivalence in the responsibilities placed on children and adults. Adults are required to protect and care for children; children are in most societies expected to respect and honour adults, which makes for unequal power relationships. The view of children as incapable continues to be used to deny them equal rights, though the concept of ‘the evolving capacities of the child’ offers a more pragmatic solution. Considering these issues, how can the concept of ‘equality’ be meaningfully applied to relationships between children and adults? One response is found in the ‘children’s liberation’ literature, which calls for organised resistance to children’s oppression. However the issues are resistant to such an approach, and child liberation offers only a partial solution. An alternative approach is to recognise and tackle ‘adultism’, here defined as, “the belief that the adult human being is intrinsically superior to or of greater worth than the child, and the child, by default, inferior or of lesser worth”. Challenging adultism enables us to reconceptualise the underlying equality in child-adult relations, which includes equality as rights-holders, equality as ends rather than means and equality of human dignity.
- PublicationStudent Voice and Children’s Rights: Power, Empowerment, and “Protagonismo”(Springer Nature, 2019-05-29)All children have a right to speak out and be heard on all matters affecting their education. Adults have a duty not just to listen, but to give due weight to the views expressed. As participation is a human right, it does not have to be justified by reference to proven benefits. However, there is a growing body of research evidence to show that it indeed brings many and varied benefits to children and schools.
- PublicationWhy the playworker’s mind-set is ideal for research with children: Child researchers investigate education rights in Nicaragua(Routledge, 2017-07-18)This chapter draws on my experience as a PhD researcher investigating children’s perceptions of human rights in school in Nicaragua’s coffee-growing zone to claim that, for a researcher such as myself coming from a playwork background, the ability to hold on to a playworker mind-set offers a distinct advantage when it comes to doing research in partnership with children. To develop this argument, I return to my playwork roots in England in the 1970s, and recount how from those roots grew the Article 31 Children’s Consultancy Scheme in the late 1990s, then how in 2001 I took these ideas with me to Nicaragua, where they gradually developed into the research methodology now known as “Transformative Research by Children and Adolescents” (TRCA). The TRCA approach is introduced, showing how its epistemology, values and methods reflect its playwork-inspired origins, and how it has subsequently developed through practice. I used TRCA as the main research methodology in my 2012-15 doctoral research project, where I obtained striking (and unexpected) findings on children’s perceptions about their right to play. The chapter concludes with a reflection on how my ability to hold on to a deeply-rooted playworker mind-set was a factor in making such findings possible. It also explores how this playworker mind-set may be advantageous for other researchers seeking to cut through the preconceptions and prescriptions of the adult professional world to engage more fully with children’s ways of thinking, and so get closer to a real understanding of children’s own experiences, perceptions and agendas.
- PublicationEmpowerment of Children and Adolescents: What is it, how does it occur, and what is the adult supporter’s role?(Children's Research Network, 2019-01)"Empowerment" has been claimed as one of the important benefits of children’s participation (Kellett, 2010; White and Choudhury, 2010). This is an attractive and plausible idea, but there is no consensus among those working in this field on what the term means, and currently no way to validate such claims.
- PublicationPathways to Participation Revisited: Learning from Nicaragua's Child Coffee Workers(Routledge, 2009-09-10)Work on children and young people’s participation in the UK (and other northern countries) has tended to focus on one specific aspect, namely consulting children and young people around their use of public services. Much analysis has focused on labelling different modes and models through which such participation may be facilitated. The author’s own ‘pathways to participation’ model is an example (Shier 2001; see also Kirby et al. 2003; Sinclair 2004).
- PublicationRetomando los caminos hacia la participación: Aprendiendo de los niños, niñas y adolescentes trabajadores del café de Nicaragua(IIED-América Latina, 2008-11)En la mayoría de los estudios sobre participación infantil en los países del hemisferio norte ha predominado el enfoque de consulta con niños, niñas y adolescentes acerca del uso de servicios públicos. Muchos análisis se han dedicado a la descripción de diferentes modelos y modalidades utilizados para facilitar este tipo de participación. El modelo conocido como “Pathways to Participation” (Los Caminos hacia la Participación), propuesto por este autor (Shier 2001), es un ejemplo de este enfoque.
- PublicationA change of Rhythm, Nicaraguan Style, in children and young people's participation: A simplified interpretation of the new international framework "A toolkit for monitoring and evaluating children’s participation" informed by the experience of the Nicaraguan pilot project 2011-2013(Save the Children, Nicaragua, 2016)Since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1989, we have known that all the world’s children have the right to participate; particularly, as defined in Article 12, the right to express their opinions and have these given due weight on decision-making on all aspects of their lives.
- PublicationIPA Global Consultations on Children’s Right to Play Report(International Play Association, 2010)The child’s right to play, leisure and recreation is set out in article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). While the Consultations described in this document acknowledged the importance, and overlap, of each of these elements, an emphasis was placed on the right to play as it is one of the least known, least understood, least recognised rights of children and consequently one of the most consistently ignored, undervalued and violated of children’s rights in the world today. Working with regional and national partners, the International Play Association identified eight Consultation sites worldwide: Bangkok, Beirut, Johannesburg,Mexico City, Mumbai, Nairobi, Sofia and Tokyo. Following a careful planning and preparation process, consultations were held in these cities between January and June 2010.
- PublicationClaiming the right to quality education in NicaraguaEducation rights can be thought of as comprising rights to, in, and through education. The idea of quality in education is bound up with all three. On returning to power in 2007, the Nicaraguan Sandinista government outlawed all charges for public schools. This made education free of charge (though not free of costs) and represented significant progress toward fulfilling the right to education. However, with no corresponding budget increase, this move failed to address the issue of quality, so that rights in and through education were still major issues.
- PublicationAn Analytical Tool to Help Researchers Develop Partnerships with Children and Adolescents(Information Age, 2019)All researchers whose research involves children and adolescents have decisions to make about how and when to engage with those involved in and/or affected by their research; who to engage with and who to leave out. This paper offers a tool that researchers can use to help them address these issues in a purposeful and ethical way. The paper discusses earlier work on child-rights-based approaches to research which influenced the approach taken here. However the main inspiration for the proposal was the author’s own research with children working on coffee plantations in Nicaragua; in particular the Transformative Research by Children and Adolescents methodology that was used, and the critical reflection on method¬ology prompted by this experience. The tool is presented as a matrix which can be used for planning and designing, as well as evaluating research. It seeks to foster coherent critical thinking around three related dimensions: At what stage in a research process should researchers seek to engage with children and adolescents? What type of engagement is appropriate, particularly in relation to the sharing of decision-making power? And finally who is included in the process and who is excluded? The matrix is used to carry out a reappraisal of a recent research project by the author, showing how this analysis can shed light on a number of issues that might not otherwise be given sufficient attention.