On the 25th of March, our Board Member Giuseppe joined the OECD meeting of National Representatives on the Implementation of Education Reforms. Obessu, from the learners' side with Education International (teachers) and the International Confederation of Principals, represented the perspective of non-governmental actors in the Implementation Processes.
According to the approach developed by the OECD, Implementation should be considered as fully integrated with the policy-making and design, so the meeting was tackling Reform issues and opportunities from the start of the reform process, until the end of the evaluation process.
The Governmental Representatives of the Republic of Ireland, Norway, and Wales (UK) presented the last Reform Processes happened in their countries, and we asked them to explain how school students and VET learners have been involved, of course with a special attention to the countries in which we have Member Organisations, and we also congratulated the Government of Ireland for the increased involvement of ISSU and in general of School Students. We were glad to hear some good examples of participation of school students in decision making, and this is why we want to see improvement on this aspects.
Than as stakeholder we exposed how we think non-governmental actors should be included, and we talked about School Students and School Student Unions and Organisations. First, we discussed who the stakeholders are and how it could be organised, with clear differences between non-organised students, unionised students and students with elected representatives. We underlined the importance of always including them from the beginning of the policy-making process, and enlisted methods like:
- Surveys and researches are ways to get limited and quantitative inputs from a not organised mass of students seen as individuals. The main challenge with this tool is that the school students population changes quite quickly, and that unorganised opinions are hard to be followed up on by the whole school student population;
- Involving school student unions and representative in policy-making is beneficial, as Unions can keep knowledge of the topic and structured positions on the reform for years and can support the Implementation at all levels. Some tools, could be intitutionalised stakeholder consultation, as it happened with the National School Student Council in the Austrian Reform of 2013, or with an ad-hoc stakeholder constitution, as happened in Ireland involving ISSU and in Wallonie, in Belgium, where CEF is included in the reform of the students' representation system.
Of course forms in the middle, combining factors of both are possible and potencially useful.
We also gave our perspective on some of the challenges that currently hinder the full participation of school students in reform processes:
- Not involving school students from the beginning - it's quite difficult to have students supporting the Implementation of a full top-down policy or reform.
- The involvement of other actors instead of school student unions and representatives - for example, party political youth organisations do not represent exclusively the interests of school students. One example could be Italy, where the Government discussed the Final Exams Reform just with the youth of one of the Government Parties, the effect is pure tokenism, the exclusion of the real stakeholder and a not positive reaction from School Students.
- Missing the Implementation / Not respecting the commonly shaped policies - the perfect example is Romania, where the School Student Rights Charter is part of the Law but still not respected in many schools.
- Not being transparent in computing the inputs - School Student Unions and Representatives should always know how their inputs are used by political institutions and the ministries
- Not giving enough time and instruments to organise participation - Reforms can take complex issues and both for large scale processes and ad-hoc ones is necessary for the Stakeholder to have time and resources to consult its constituency, for example it could be necessary to have assemblies in schools and to travel.
As OBESSU we are always glad to be invited and included in policy processes by organisations like the OECD, to represent School Student views and to show the importance of supporting School Student Unions and Organisations as key points in participatory processes. We hope that this will lead to more national governments involving school students in decision making!