TABLE OF CONTENTS
When can a school be called a ‘Child-friendly School’?
A Child-friendly School is more than just a place for formal learning. Foremost, it is an institution that recognizes and respects the range of rights of children, and not just their right to be educated. These rights also include their rights to be healthy, to be given opportunities for play and leisure, to be protected from harm and abuse, to express their views freely, and to participate in decision-making according to their evolving capacities.
While upholding children’s rights, a Child-friendly School also instills in children the resposibilities that go with their rights. Among these are to respect the rights of others, respect diversity, practice equality, and resolve differences without resorting to violence.
Just as important, a Child-friendly School takes the lead in shaping a learning environment that enables children to learn as much as their intellectual faculties could take. It is a kind of environment that allows them to grow healthy, equips them with knowledge and skills that they can use throughout life, and enables them to become responsible and productive members of their community and society.
How did you like school?
Many of us look at school as a place for serious learning but rarely as a place for one to enjoy learning activities and have a say in what one needs and wants to learn.
When you were in school, were you ever consulted as to what you wanted to learn and how you wanted to learn them? If you were lucky enough to have been asked, were you able to freely suggest ways and activities by which you could learn more effectively?
Rights and enjoyment are perhaps words often left out of any student handbook or school circular. Now that you are a teacher, principal or parent, are you the type who believes that being ‘soft’ on children will only make them learn or study less? Or that giving them ‘choices’ and allowing them to express themselves freely will only diminish discipline – discipline to make them sit up and listen to their lessons?
Each of us probably has his or her own idea or approach to education and how we can make children ‘learn’. Regardless of the differences in our opinions, many of us would probably agree that SCHOOL IS FOR CHILDREN. Perhaps, we could further firm up this agreement by coming up with some common definitions…
What is a school?
Let us consult our dictionaries. Do you have one in your school? All dictionaries would probably contain any or some of the following definitions: 1) an institution devoted primarily to imparting knowledge or developing certain skills; 2) the building or buildings in which instruction is given; 3) any sphere or means of instruction.
What makes up a school?
Since it is safe to agree that ‘school’ is for those needing or seeking knowledge or instruction, it should be primarily composed of learners or pupils.
Where there are pupils, there should also be teachers who care for children, provide for their learning needs, and nurture their interests.
Then, there is the physical school – the school building and its facilities – classrooms, gymnasium or activity area, grounds for young children to romp and play, toilet facilities, drinking fountains, and the like.
Did we miss anything? Well, yes there’s still one more and probably the most important one of all. It’s all people and things that we’ve mentioned combined…and more. It is called the learning environment. The learning environment is more than just the sum total of all these – people (pupils and teachers) and things around them – parents, brothers, sisters, other relatives, and other people and things in the community where the school is located.
When all these INTERACT, and interact FAVORABLY with each other, a lot of wonderful things can happen to the child’s learning. Remember that learning does not only occur within the four walls of a classroom. Learning continues when the pupil returns from school to his or her family, mingles with the neighbors and playmates, runs an errand to the sari-sari store, attends with his or her family a religious service at their place of worship, and does tens of other things. A healthy learning environment not only enhances the child’s academic achievement but also ensures his or her physical, psychological, social, and emotional growth.
Who provides the ‘learning environment’?
School principals, teachers, parents and families, community institutions such as your local barangay council, other community members and the children themselves support each other in creating and enhancing the ‘learning environment’.
What exactly is a ‘Child-friendly School’ and how can our school become one?
A ‘Child-friendly School’ has the following five traits:
1. A Child-friendly School is inclusive, gender-sensitive, and non-discriminating.
It is said to be inclusive, gender-sensitive, and non-discriminating when it…
-does not turn away any child from enrolling and attending classes for whatever reason
-gives boys and girls equal learning opportunities
-treats all children equally, regardless of gender, social status, cultural origin or religious belief.
2.A Child-friendly School is effective with children.
It is said to be effective with children when it…
-has the best interest of the child in mind in all its learning activities
-has a curriculum that addresses the child’s learning needs as well as those of the community and society
-employs teaching methods that are suited to the child’s age, abilities, and ways of learning
-encourages children to think and decide for themselves, ask questions, and express their opinions
promotes quality learning
-makes sure that children master the basic skills of writing, reading, speaking (and listening), mathematics, and the necessary skills that they can use through life
-encourages children to learn by doing and by doing things with others
-makes sure that teachers are qualified to teach and continue to become better teachers
-makes sure that teachers and other staff are physically fit, adequately paid, and highly motivated.
encourages children to participate in school and community activities
-encourages children to work together to solve problems and achieve what they aim to do
-encourages children to express their feelings through the arts – music, drawing, drama, and other forms
3. A Child-friendly School is healthy for children.
It is said to be healthy for children when it…
-promotes children’s health
-guarantees that school buildings, grounds, and facilities are safe, clean, healthy, and with adequate water and sanitary facilities
-has written policies and regular practices that promote good health
-integrates health education and life skill development in its curriculum
-hosts regular health services for children, such as immunization
4. A Child-friendly School is caring and protective of all children
It is said to be caring and protective of all children when it…
-safeguards and provides security for children
-helps defend and protect children from harm and abuse
-encourages children to care for each other
-does not tolerate physical punishment on children
-has clear guidelines for conduct between students and does not allow bullying
5. A Child-friendly School involves children’s families and the community
It is said to involve families and the community when it…
works closely with children’s families
-consults parents and invites their opinions regarding school policies and activities
-holds regular dialogues with parents regarding their children’s learning progress
-collaborates with parents to encourage their children to practice at home what they are learning in school
-cares as much as parents that children get enough nutrition and are in good health
-cares about the children’s safety not only within the school premises but also on their way to and from school
engages the support and interaction of community institutions and other indviduals
-enlists the support of community institutions and individuals for its projects and activities for children
-acts on behalf of and upholds the interests of children in community assemblies
WHAT SHOULD A CHILD-FRIENDLY SCHOOL AIM TO ACHIEVE?
A Child-friendy School should aspire for these seven (7) goals:
- Encourage children’s participation in school and community
- Enhance children’s health and well-being
- Guarantee safe and protective spaces for children
- Encourage enrolment and completion
- Ensure children’s high academic achievement and success
- Raise teacher’s morale and motivation
- Mobilize community support for education
How should our school go about achieving these goals?
The following checklist contains action items that will guide you through what you need to have or need to do towards accomplishing the seven goals of the Child-friendly School.
See how many of the action items listed under each goal you have accomplished or are doing on a regular basis. Tick the box before each action item if you have accomplished this. Add up and write your total in the box after each goal. By checking what your school already has and what it is doing regularly, you will be able to track your progress towards becoming a Child-friendly School.
You may already be well along the way to becoming a Child-friendly School! Remember though that you have to be honest with your answers!
Here’s one other advice… Please accomplish this checklist first before moving on to the next section.