Making the Shift from Student Engagement to EmpowermentSeth Anandram Jaipuria School Ghaziabad
For any educational institution, students are its biggest assets, their best hope of making the world a better place.
This makes it imperative that our students’ voices are heard and their participation in shaping our communities be enabled. If we don’t involve them in our community engagement process, we’re missing a big part of our communities’ voice. When schools find ways to welcome student opinions, partner with students as stakeholders in their own learning, especially at the secondary level — they do more than equip students with tools for lifelong success. They also end up creating programs and policies that are more effective at meeting the schools’ own goals for supporting young people in their healthy development.
It benefits the students, educators, management, and the community alike.
For the youth, it helps them navigate the pressures of school life, lends them a platform to voice out their opinions, fit in the system, and speak on behalf of their fraternity. For educators, an opinionated audience leads to an electrifying classroom environment with multi-faceted discussions on otherwise mundane topics as they offer a great wealth of information and diverse perspectives from our own.
Schools benefit, too. Reforms initiated with student input are likely to improve the learning environment for all students, not just those involved in the reforms. And students who feel appreciated and supported feel more connected to their school. For a community, an awakened youth helps give nuanced, constructive suggestions. They actively partake roles for community development and thus, help create a futuristic and just society.
I believe that schools must take the responsibility of harboring and nurturing the voice of their students. At SAJS, Vasundhara, we make a conscious effort to ensure student participation in various fields to shape and achieve their own aspirations for their learning.
The management has meticulously crafted space for students on school leadership teams, improvement teams, and diverse teams, where we treat students as full members of the team, not just observers. Students are exposed to different ways of learning and approaching problems through sessions like SEL, Awakened Citizen Programs, Financial Literacy, and Design Thinking; giving and receiving feedback has become a norm; and students are given the time, space, and power to construct and test their own ideas.
Our students’ participation and feedback are precious to us and the management makes sure to integrate their perspectives into decision-making processes, which has, no doubt, set the stage for lasting bonds and important mentoring relationships and has increased the school’s efficiency manifolds.
In the words of Brion-Meisels, “Students who feel appreciated and supported typically feel more connected to their school community. The evidence is pretty clear that when organizations, including schools, give young people agency and voice and integrate their perspectives into decision-making processes, those organizations are more effective in the work they’re trying to do”.
Seth Anandram Jaipuria School – Vasundhara