Thursday 9 August 2007

Introduction to theory and practice of children's participation

A good introduction to theory and practice of children's participation can be found in a new publication, Beyond article 12 – Essential readings in children's participation.

This publication presents a collection of important statements and theories, some legal information and a few practical examples that are particularly thought-provoking.

All the materials included were written by adults for adults in attempts to tackle some of the challenges raised by children’s participation.

The book presents a systematic, non-partisan and holistic view of the topic. By providing basic material on history, theory and practice the editors wish to facilitate an increased understanding of the complex issue of children’s participation as well as to encourage readers to seek further information. The Readings include legal instruments, philosophy, implementation, practice, experience and the broad debate on what children’s participation should or should not be.

Henk van Beers, Antonella Invernizzi and Brian Milne (editors), 2006, Beyond article 12 – Essential readings in children's participation, Bangkok, Black on White Publications, Knowing Children. ISBN 974-93296-1-9

When you want to know more about Knowing Children please visit their website:

From the editorial introduction to Beyond article 12:

“Some of the most notable gaps occur in theory. There is no holistic approach to children’s participation. History, underlying philosophies and the implementation of legal instruments appear to be disconnected. Indeed one of the most disconcerting aspects of the way the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, Reading 3) has been used by some devotees of child participation has been a total resistance to think beyond article 12. Not only are other participation rights infrequently visited by writers and activists but also there is no critique of these oversights. Yet, when the work of pioneers is examined, a broader vision becomes apparent. The ideas of Janusz Korczak (1878/9–1942), the Polish doctor and philosopher who is often credited with beginning modern debates on children’s rights, most certainly harboured a wider range of possibilities. John Dewey’s educational theories (Reading 43) trusted children far more than many contemporary child participation enthusiasts and Ivan Illich’s critique of education (Reading 47) most certainly placed greater trust in the hands and minds of all ages – children included. Perhaps the most illustrative of all is the work of Alexander S. Neill (Reading 48) who foresaw, advocated and practiced intellectual and personal freedoms for children of the kind included much later in the UNCRC. Children give living examples that these principles work.

Knowledge about, and analysis of, participation of children in their everyday lives has received very little attention. Yet a focus on rights violations, implementation of the UNCRC or child-rights planning, programming and practices should not obscure the fact that, outside any attempts by adults to promote respect for article 12, children do indeed participate in their everyday lives, are sometimes listened to and have their decisions and opinions respected. Analyses of these practices are inspiring both for policy and practices. However, these same decisions children take, the processes and (adult) partners involved, are likely to vary considerably from one context to another, depending on cultural practices and socio-economic contexts. Better knowledge in this area would promote practice and policy based on existing resources and strengths.


Each section and subsection of this book is preceded by a brief introduction to the Readings it contains, to explain why we chose these excerpts and to place them in the context of past history and current debates. A final bibliography merges all the references in the excerpts, and is followed by a list of suggested further texts that may be of interest. To help readers wishing to use it as a reference tool, the book is indexed by names of authors as well as topics, and Readings contain internal references to other Readings where relevant.”

(pages viii – ix)

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