08 SES 01 B, Student Participation and Health Promotion in Schools
Parallel Paper Session<br />
This proposal is part of a PhD research that has the aim of investigating socio-ecological perspectives on the role of children’s participation in effecting the health promoting school environment. This phase of the research was designed to address the question ‘how do children define and describe school participation’. The definitions of participation given by children were proposed to form the definitional basis of the rest of the PhD research.
The Health Promoting School (HPS) initiative emphasises the significance of the whole school environment at the core of its agenda. This places much credence on the importance of not basing learning in schools on teaching alone, but also on making the whole school environment including the physical, social and structural environments healthy and conducive for learning (e.g., Simovska, 2004).
It has been hypothesised that the practice of genuine participation is essential for the success of a HPS programme, which impacts both on the student and the school environment as a whole (Simovska, 2000; Simovska, 2004). Genuine student participation can provide the opportunity for students to have a sense of ownership in the method of learning (Simovska, 2007). Article 12 of the UN convention on the children’s rights states that ‘children have the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child’. This supports the first principle, Democracy, of the HPS movement.
The HPS movement encourages the enhancement of students’ cognitive and communication skills, improving their ability to make positive choices, as well as understanding the process of developing capacity for team work within the school, in order to improve the health behaviour of the school environment (Simovska, 2007). “A student participating genuinely in health promoting school processes is looked upon not as an individual but rather as a ‘person-and-environment’, where the school and the environment are not abstractions but real entities consisting of real people” (Holzman, 1997). Ecological models can be adapted to investigate the effects of the setting in which an individual functions, and their ability to make health promoting choices.
Despite the potential positive effect of child participation on improving the physical and psycho-social environment in their school and the possible influence it could have on children’s health and well-being (de Roiste et al, 2012-in press), much HPS literature on children participation is still theoretical and there is dearth of information on the definition of participation from children’s perspectives. Thus, leading to the aim of this research, which was to document Irish children’s perspective of what participation meant to them and their views on how participation can work better in their schools.
de Roiste A., Gavin. A., Molcho M., Kelly C., Nic Gabhainn S. (2012). Is school participation good for children? In press, Health Education. Holzman, L. (1997). Schools for Growth—Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Model. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Nic Gabhainn, S. & Sixsmith, J. (2006). Children photographing well-being: facilitating participation in research. Children & Society, 20, 249-259. Simovska, V. (2000). Exploring student participation within Health Education and Health Promoting School. In Jensen, B.B., Schnack, K. and Simovska, V. (eds), Critical Environmental and Health Education: Research Issues and Challenges. Copenhagen: Research Centre for Environmental and Health Education, Danish University of Education. Simovska V. (2004). Student participation: a democratic education perspective—experience from the health-promoting schools in Macedonia. Health Education Research, 19 (20), 198-207. Simovska V. (2007). The changing meanings of participation in school-based health education and health promotion: the participants’ voices. Health Education Research, 22 (6), 864–878.
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