Youth participation and the importance of youth voice were the focus of the first online policy and practice event as a part of the Start the Change project. The event was attended by decision and policy makers and teachers from North Macedonia, Croatia and Portugal who discussed these topics and enriched their knowledge of making policy changes aimed at greater youth involvement.
To achieve this goal, the first part of the online conference presented the theoretical basis for the importance of student voice and student participation data in partner countries as well as in countries with high student participation. Representatives from high-participation countries shared their experiences and good practices in encouraging young people to be more active in the decision-making process.
The second part of the event was even more interactive with greater involvement of the attendees. The results of the comparative report from the focus groups held with students were presented followed by an open discussion to share ideas on the topic.
The main conclusion was that the general awareness of youth participation and its importance is low at both national and local level. However, the need for students to be involved in the decision-making process, especially at the school level, was recognized as a basis for introducing them to democratic participation from an early age. In this way, they can make significant contributions, which is not only important for themselves, but also for society at large.
During the discussion, a teacher from our country shared her opinion on this topic: “We mainly evaluate students based on their ability to remember things, which does not stimulate critical thinking, nor does it introduce new ideas. In fact, we only support ideas that already exist among us. In my opinion, we should work to strengthen the self-confidence of the students and make them aware of the importance of their voice. I think this is the only way can change the situation in the long run and enable students to contribute to the society even after graduation.”
In the coming period, a publication will be prepared containing policies and approaches related to youth participation in partner and high-participation countries. The activities that present the importance of youth voice to stakeholders and highlight the need for policy changes that will make this voice widely heard in all areas will also continue.