Involving Young People in the Educational Planning

S. M. Rayhanul Islam
Thursday, December 21st, 2017


Young people are the central stakeholder in any education system. However, they are often excluded from the very conversations in educational planning that determine their lives and their futures. These conversations often happen around young people and not with them. The UNESCO publication ‘Planning Education with and for Youth’ focuses on the rationale for and obstacles to youth involvement, as well as the efforts of ministries of education to engage youth in their planning work. It is based on discussions and recommendations that emerged from the high-level international policy forum on ‘Engaging youth in planning education for social transformation’ organized by the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) in Paris from 16 to 18 October 2012.


The book is divided into two parts. Part I: ‘Can you hear me? Now are you listening?’ is written by Anja Hopma, an education consultant currently working for a Paris-based French charity which supports students from low-income backgrounds. This first part comprises an introduction and four chapters. Introduction basically focuses on the issues and key concepts referred to in the publication (definition of youth, youth engagement and participation, and educational planning).


Chapter 1 outlines the rationale for youth engagement in educational planning, including the right to be heard, the benefits to young people themselves, and the potential contribution of youth as social development actors to community and societal well-being. Young people can bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to policies in education. Participation can enable young people to gain a better understanding of educational governance systems and obtain insights into how educational policy is formulated and how decisions are made at different levels. It is argued that youth will invest more effort in their own education if they feel they have greater power and more of a say in the education process. Research also suggests that young people themselves can make an effective contribution to conducting education research. Involving youth in research not only improves young people’s critical thinking and analytical skills, but also allows them to develop strong advocacy statements to address challenges in education reform.


Chapter 2 examines some of the barriers to youth engagement in the public arena. A feeling of marginalization from decision-making is often experienced by young people. A study conducted by UNICEF on adolescent and youth perspectives on educational quality found several examples of marginalization of youth from decision-making. Acknowledging these obstacles and seeking to understand why youth engagement experiences have failed is a first step towards developing more effective alternatives. Some of the key challenges highlighted in this chapter include perceptions of youth, the capacity of youth to engage, tokenistic and unrepresentative engagement, and poor mechanisms of engagement.


Chapter 3 provides some strategies to encourage and support the process of youth engagement in educational planning through concrete examples referred to in the literature. There is a need to convince the relevant authorities (educational planners at the ministry level, teachers, school directors and so on) of the benefits of youth engagement in education planning processes, both from a rights-based and a value-added perspective. There is also a need to generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and value of youth engagement among families and communities. The attitudes of community elders, cultural expectations, and social norms can generate additional barriers to youth participation in dialogue on decision-making.


Chapter 4 offers a list of recommendations on how educational planners can adopt concrete measures to plan education with and for youth. Educational planners should consider appropriate entry points for involving young in education research. Youth insights could significantly improve the quality and relevance of the research. Educational planners should make efforts to ensure that a diverse range of youth and youth voices (different socio-economic and ethnic groups, appropriate gender balance) are included in participatory mechanisms. Educational planners should recognize youth’s own priorities concerning the education they need and seek their input into the selection of programmes and objectives. Educational planners should consider including youth-sensitive indicators in their monitoring and evaluation frameworks.


Part II of the book entitled ‘A review of youth engagement in national education and youth plans and policies’ is written by Lynne Sergeant, an Information Specialist at UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, where she has been working on the Institute’s youth engagement in education programme since 2012.This part presents an overview of ‘youth engagement’ as described in national education and youth policies and plans from 54 countries, and examines the extent to which young people have been engaged in national policy and planning processes, the different ways in which young people are engaged, and the challenges that countries face when including young people as partners in participatory processes. The in-country examples provided here demonstrate that young people are currently engaged in their education at four different levels: within school and tertiary education governance, in shaping their own learning, in educational policy and planning processes, and in monitoring and evaluating their education.


Analysis of the policies and strategies identified three main challenges faced by governments to meaningfully including youth in their policy and planning processes: i) traditional hierarchies present in societies, ii) a lack of institutional commitment, and iii) a lack of coordination among stakeholders (both government and youth themselves). This part also highlights solutions proposed by governments to improve youth engagement in public decision-making. These include: i) institutionalizing mechanisms for youth engagement, ii) strengthening intersectoral collaboration and networking opportunities, iii) capacity development (for youth and decision-makers), iv) establishing a more important role for youth at local level, v) knowledge generation – research by and for youth, vi) providing information in user-friendly formats, vii) engaging and mobilizing youth from the outset, and viii) working with traditional and social media for outreach purposes.


This well-documented UNESCO publication argues that youth can play a pivotal role in helping to plan an education system for the 21st century. By engaging youth and encouraging participation young people’s insights and fresh perspectives can improve the quality of education research, programmes, and policies.


The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail:

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