Let every voice be heard

Goal 4: Quality Education


This is a discussion exercise in small groups and plenary, working with the issues of what education is and how it meets, or does not meet, people’s needs.


stopwatchTwo 45 minute lessons

circular-line-with-word-age-in-the-center15 – 21 years old

group-of-three-men-standing-side-by-side-hugging-each-otherGroups of up to 28


Behavioural competences

  • To appreciate the access to education
  • To utilise everyday learning opportunities
  • To take responsibility for ensuring one’s own education and the education of others


  • To recognise the value and benefits of education
  • To reflect upon the consequences of one’s actions on the access to education of others
  • To reflect upon the empowerment of education
  • To recognise the value of non-formal and informal learning
  • To critically analyse the level of access to quality education world-wide

Lifelong learning key competences

  • Social and civic competencies
  • Learning to learn


  • 4 large sheets of paper or flipchart paper and pens per small group of four students
  • Extra paper, sufficient for students to make notes on


Familiarise yourself with Articles 12 and 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).


Tell the students to read and reflect upon the text of Article 28 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) before the class.


First Class:

  1. Start with a short general discussion about what the students understand by the term “education”. Students should know that to receive an education is a human right (Article 26 of the UDHR). Tell them that not only do they have a human right to education, but also that according to Article 12 of the CRC, “the child has the right to express views on all matters affecting him/her and the child’s views should be given due weight.”
  1. Brainstorm all the positive and negative aspects of the school system in your country and note the keywords on the board.
  1. Briefly review the keywords and consider why the education system is like it is with reference to some of the points listed, for instance, the curriculum, class sizes, school rules about clothing and extracurricular activities.
  1. Talk about who makes the decisions about the sort of education that the students get.
  1. Divide the students into four groups. Assign each group one of the questions from the list below:


  1. Tell the group to assess the value of their right to education. For instance, is primary education available and free to all in your society? If not, who are excluded and why.
  1. Tell the group to assess what forms of discipline are in the school, is the individual’s dignity respected? Does the curriculum foster the development of everyone’s personality, talents and abilities? What is the focus, for instance on producing good citizens or a trained work force? Is human rights education included?
  1. Ask the group to review how decisions are made in their school. For instance, who decides what is taught or what extracurricular activities will be arranged? How is the school or college administrated? How are budgetary and spending decisions made? How are policies developed and agreed? How much say do young people have?
  1. Ask the group to consider the positive and negative aspects of having a democratically elected body, such as a student council, to make decisions about their education at the school level.

Come back into plenary and discuss the students’ findings.

Second Class:

Developing democratic systems so people can have their say.

The next stage depends on the circumstances of the school. If there is no council in your school, then the groups should work to decide what sort of council they would like, what its remit should be and how to go about establishing one. If your school or college already has a council, then they should review how it works and develop plans for how to make it work better. Explain how to do a SWOT analysis and tell the groups that they have thirty minutes to develop an action plan written up on a large sheet of flipchart paper.

6. Come back into plenary and discuss the results.

Debriefing (second class)

Discuss why the existing decision-making structures are as they are. What are the historical precedents? Did the structures fulfil their functions in the past? Are they appropriate now? If not, why?

  • Why do decision-making structures and procedures need to be reviewed regularly?
  • How did the different groups’ action plans compare?
  • What do they cost in terms of time, effort and money?
  • How realistic were they? (Note: it is good to have big visions, but you need to take one step at a time towards the goal!)
  • “The child has the right to express views on all matters affecting him/her and the child’s views should be given due weight.” Is this a realistic demand in relation to the national education curriculum? How could young people have an input?
  • To what extent is Article 12 respected in the classroom? How much time should be devoted to “having your say”?
  • How is human rights education delivered in your school? Do you learn about human rights and the various conventions? Do you have the opportunity to get involved in projects to promote human rights in your school and community?

Follow up suggestions

Essay on one of the following issues:

  • Some groups, for instance the Roma, often find their right to education violated. Why is this and how could access be made easier?
  • How does hunger affect students’ ability to achieve an education? Emphasise on the link between article 25 (right to Adequate Living Standard) and 26 (right to Education) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ideas for actions

Let the group work further on the ideas generated in this activity and, taking tips from the “Taking action” section, strive for more say in the decision-making in their school, college or club.

The students might consider linking and exchanging information with other student councils in their area, at the national level, or internationally.

Further information

The Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education) targets: http://globalresponsibility.eu/goal-4-quality-education/

The Convention on the Rights of the Child:


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


There is general information about education and human rights in the background information in chapter 5 of Compass: A Manual on Human Rights Education with Young People. Notes about the differences between formal, non-formal and informal education can be found here. The SWOT analysis is described and explained in the Taking action section.

The degree to which young people can participate in decision-making processes depends on their age and the matter to be decided. For a useful model, see Roger Hart’s ladder of young people’s participation, www.freechild.org

There is more information about the ladder of participation in the section on Citizenship and Participation in chapter 5 (Compass).

Opportunities for direct involvement in decision-making processes are growing in many countries, for example, Participatory Budgeting, a process in which the effects of people’s involvement are directly seen in either policy change or spending priorities. It is not just a consultation exercise, but an embodiment of direct, deliberative democracy:

One example is Newcastle’s (UK) Udecide participatory budgeting programme, where in May 2008 young people had a 20% vote in the procurement of services for the city’s £2.25m Children’s Fund. Recognising that children and young people are the experts, the project aimed to give those young people in the city who were most likely to benefit from the Fund the chance to have a real say in how it was allocated. By challenging providers to pitch their idea to young people, the project aimed to make them think differently about their services and how it was allocated.

The Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU) is the European umbrella organisation of school student organisations. It works in order to:

  • Represent the views of the school students in Europe towards the different educational institutions and platforms
  • Uphold and improve the quality and accessibility of education and educational democracy in Europe
  • Improve the conditions in the secondary schools in Europe to promote greater solidarity, co-operation and understanding among the school students
  • Put an end to the discrimination and injustice where they exist within the educational systems in countries in Europe.

The School of Life, “What is education For?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HndV87XpkWg&list=WL&index=347

Print outs (before lesson 1)

Make the SWOT analysis more visual for the students by printing the figure below or draw it on the blackboard.