21 November 2013

If young people were actively engaged in all aspects of society...

If children and young people were really actively engaged in all aspects of society, how do you think the world would change?

Screenshot from a slide shown at Michael Furdyk's Taking IT Global session, during the
Global Education Conference.
A major barrier preventing children and young people becoming actively engaged in all aspects of society, is that adults may not see their input and participation as valuable. Their engagement will then not be encouraged. In this sort of atmosphere, it is unlikely that children and young people will see themselves as being "community leaders, problem-solvers, role models, mentors and key "stake-holders"." Society is missing out on a great opportunity when it excludes young people. As one teenager said, at the Annual EuroChild Conference last week, older people have more experience, but younger people can contribute fresh ideas. This seems like a great combination! 

Excluding young people means that they may be denied a sense of belonging. The implications of this can cause issues impacting the whole of society. If a group of people gets the feeling that nobody wants to listen to them, then dangerous, or anti-social behaviour may become appealing - because these excluded people might not feel a sense of responsibility to a society that does not respect them, or maybe they want to try to make a statement, in an attempt to be heard by everyone else!
A group of young people giving a presentation on youth participation at the Annual Eurochild Conference, November 2013.

Another issue is that governance systems across the world are structured in a way that constrains youth participation and leadership. Whilst addressing young people at a youth leadership forum, called Youth 21, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki said:

"It would obviously be unnatural that I, a member of the older generation, would easily and willingly accept that younger people, my own children, should, at best, sit side-by-side with me as co-leaders, fully empowered to help determine the future of our people."

However, he encouraged young people to organise and ready themselves, to take up leadership roles and to overcome the attitude of older generations. 

I think the world would be a better place if we made the effort to enable children and young people to participate, and to become actively engaged in all aspects of society. How do you think the world would change if we did this?

The picture of the quote above, was taken from a session at the Global Education Conference. This conference is online and is free to attend. Live sessions are taking place until the end of tomorrow (22 November) and there are recordings from earlier session this week. If you are interested in education issues, I definitely recommend taking a look at the conference site.


  1. So many problems arise when young people do not feel their opinion matters. Many programs geared towards children do not consider how things will play out in the real world. It couldn't hurt to consult with young people to get their input when they are the ones who are supposed to benefit.

    1. I totally agree with you! I definitely think young people should be should be consulted, especially where adults are trying to design programmes geared towards children. Instead of trying to imagine how it could work, and how it will benefit children, they could ask the children and young people themselves, and get their input.