Youth participation in a UNICEF study on education quality

While we are on the topic of youth engagement, I stumbled across this article, “Youth participation: success for research and for our future” summarizing the findings of a study conducted by UNICEF that collaborated with youth to find out the effects of deteriorating education quality in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The article touches on a lot of what we discussed in class: empowering youth to have a voice in the issues that concern them, creating healthy alliances with adult mentors, and creating a safe environment for youth to discuss opinions openly.

The research study is called a Case Study on Youth Participatory Research on Education Quality in CEE/CIS Innovative Practices, Lessons Learned and Recommendations. The youth who participated  “identified the main issues to be explored, developed the questions, and tested and revised the research tools.” They also “developed advocacy statements and provided suggestions for how to address education challenges” (6). The study gave youth from marginalized communities a chance to “participate and express themselves for the first time” (21).

It may seem like common sense to involve youth in projects in which they are the primary stakeholders, but it hasn’t always been the case. It’s exciting that youth participation is becoming more legitimately realized among service providers and non-profits.

Have youth given up “serious reading”?

I was extra sensitive to any sort of assumptions made about youth when reading through some articles this week. This article No future for serious reading published in the Sun discusses Stan Persky’s book Reading the 21st Century and the author’s concern that young people are no longer reading anything of quality. I am so tired of this irrational fear of society’s culture going down the drain because the youth today are uneducated in what are always subjectively labelled “culturally significant” works. Is society doomed because kids are not fluent in Latin and are playing angry birds instead? I think Persky’s statement that information technology devices are not being used to access information and knowledge is completely unfounded. Kids are accessing information and creating content all the time from their phones, laptops, Twitter accounts etc. Persky does acknowledge that the act of writing is flourishing but doesn’t attach any significance to youth being content creators. Interacting with knowledge, rather than passively accepting information, is so important for engaging youth with society.

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s a great article on Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia project that gives young people the tools and space they need to be content creators. I love the description of the One Book One Chicago project as a way to engage with traditional reading material in ways that are new and innovative. Youth redesigned the book jacket, reimagined scenes through photographs, and performed spoken word pieces inspired by the book. I love this video of one young man describing his experiences at the library through a spoken word piece. It most certainly makes me think we are far from doomed…

Malcolm London YOUmedia