EENET is committed to helping young people have a voice in education debates.

Our role as a global network is to help education stakeholders to document and share their experiences of and ideas for inclusive education. We aim to support those who are least heard in international education debates, in particular teachers, parents, community members and of course learners.

Ten years ago we worked with Atlas Alliance to create a short video and booklet featuring the views of learners from inclusive schools in Tanzania and Uganda. Since 2008 a lot has changed in the field of inclusive education.

  • The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015. Goal 4 seeks to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
  • In the last few years there has also been a General Comment published which aims to clarify the commitments to inclusive education made in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In the last 10 years we have seen a growing interest in inclusive education. Unfortunately, interest in listening to and involving learners in the process of making education inclusive has not grown so much.

Our 2017/18 project, supported by a grant from Open Society Foundations Early Childhood Programme, therefore sought not just to collect and publish young voices on inclusion, but to build the capacity of young people to speak out, and the capacity of adults to support this.

In particular, we wanted to include very young children in ‘child voice’ activities. These children – of pre-school, kindergarten and early primary school age – are often ignored, even when older children are given opportunities to speak about education. There is a tendency to think that such young children cannot understand the issues or articulate themselves. However, although these youngsters will not express experiences and ideas in the same detail as a 15-year-old child, they still have plenty to say – if we ask in the right way.

One reason why it may seem so difficult to include very young children in child voice activities is the big age gap between the children and the facilitators or researchers. Adults can seem ancient and intimidating to small children, even if we try to use child-friendly interaction methods! Young children may be reluctant to ‘open up’ to an adult. That’s why this project focused on helping other children and young people to be researchers and facilitators with young children.