25 SES 05, Actively Seeking Children’s Views
The focal point of this paper is to discuss children’s opportunities to make their voices heard and influence the activity in Swedish afterschool services. The official English terms for these institutions are leisure-time centres or recreation centres. These institutions are for example common in the Nordic countries and after-school programs are their counterpart in the US. However, Swedish researchers and university teachers often use the term ‘school-age educare’ as a way of emphasizing that the activity comprises both education and care. According to the steering document, General Recommendations with Comments (The National Agency for Education, 2014), school-age educare is an activity where the pupils should, among other things, have opportunities to influence the activity. Staff should enhance these opportunities as the pupils, by expressing their thoughts and opinions, can develop an understanding of democracy. Research discussing everyday practice in Swedish leisure-time centres frequently describes the most essential activities aim to support by providing good care, although education has been emphasized more in recent steering documents (cf. the National Agency for Education, 2014).
Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children who are capable of forming their own views also have the right to express those views and the right to have their views given due weight (cf. James, 2007; Shier, 2001; Robinson, 2011). Children’s opportunities to benefit from Article 12 depend on adult cooperation, which means that there is a power imbalance in student-teacher relationships and that this inequality plays a significant role in terms of inhibiting or enabling the implementation of Article 12 (Lundy, 2007; Robinson, 2011). Although steering documents and society discourses highlight the importance of children´s voices, children may find their voices silenced or ignored (see also, James, 2007; Thomas, 2007). The growing attention paid to children´s opportunities to influence should be seen as part of a transition from seeing children as “…an instance of a category to the recognition of children as particular persons” (James, Jenks & Prout, 1998, p. 6) and discussions concerning children´s perspectives and a child perspective should be seen as a part of this growing attention (Einarsdóttir, 2002; Halldén, 2003; Sommer, Pramling Samuelsson and Hundeide, 2013). This article will discuss the construction of everyday practice in one leisure-time centre and its pupils’ opportunities to influence the activities. The point of departure uses Halldén’s (2003) understanding concerning the concept of “a child perspective”, i.e. studying a culture that is designed for children. The concept of “children´s perspectives” is used as a point of departure for studying staff trying to get close to the children’s perceptions. The research questions are:
What opportunities do the pupils have to choose activities and, thereby, influence everyday practice?
What opportunities do the pupils have to participate in democratic decision-making?
This study’s theoretical point of departure originates from a social constructionist perspective which asserts that reality is constructed through the interactions of people (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Burr, 2003). This implies that everyday life, for example the social practice at a leisure-time centre, should be seen as a result of mutual constructions produced and reproduced by pupils and staff. According to Giddens’ theory of structuration (1984), social practices are a product of social systems with inherent power relations that continuously produce and reproduce themselves. Social systems are, therefore, both the medium and the outcome of the practices they recursively organize (cf. Giddens, 1984). The production and reproduction of social practice are constituted by the actors´ interactions and their use of their social positions within the social system.
Berger, P., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Doubleday. Burr, V. (2003). Social Constructionism. (2nd Edition). London: Routledge. Einarsdóttir, J. (2002). Children’s Accounts of the Transition from Preschool to Elementary School. In Barn, 4, 49-72. Giddens, A. (1979). Central Problems in Social Theory. London: MacMillan Press Ltd. Giddens, A. (1984). The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. Haglund, B. & Klerfelt, A. (2013). The Swedish leisure-time centre. Past – present – future. In J. Eckarius, E. Klieme, L. Stecher & J. Woods (Eds.), Extended Education – an International Perspective. Proceedings of the International Conference on Extracurricular and Out-of-School Time Educational Research. (pp. 125-146). Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publishers. Halldén, G. (2003). Barnperspektiv som ideologiskt eller metodologiskt begrepp. [A child perspective as an ideological or methodological notion.] In Pedagogisk Forskning i Sverige, 8(1-2), 12-23. Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography. Principles in Practice. (Third edition). London: Routledge. James, A. (2007). Giving Voice to Children’s Voices: Practices and Problems, Pitfalls and Potentials. In American Anthropologist, 109(2), 261-272. James, A., Jenks, C., & Prout, A. (1998). Theorising Childhood. Cambridge: Polity Press. Klerfelt, A., & Haglund, B. (2014). Walk-and-talk Conversations: a Way to Elicit Children’s Perspectives and Prominent Discourses in School-Age Educare. In International Journal for Research on Extended Education, 2(1), 119-134. Lundy, L. (2007). ‘Voice’ is not enough: conceptualizing Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In British Educational Research Journal, 33, 927-942. Robinson, C. (2011). Children’s rights in student voice projects: where does the power lie? In Education Inquiry, 2, 437-451. Shier, H. (2001). Pathways to Participation: Openings, Opportunities and Obligations. A New Model for Enhancing Children’s Participation in Decision-making, in line with Article 12.1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In Children & Society, 15, 107-117. Sommer, D., Pramling Samuelsson, I., & Hundeide, K. (2013). Early childhood care and education: a child perspective paradigm. In European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21, 459-475. The National Agency for Education. (2014). General Recommendations with Comments. Quality in Leisure-time centres. Stockholm: Fritzes. Thomas, N. (2007). Towards a Theory of Children’s Participation. In International Journal of Children’s Rights, 15, 199-218. Walford, G. (2008). The nature of educational ethnography. In G. Walford (Ed.), How to do educational ethnography (pp. 1-15). London: Tufnell Press.
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