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Empowering Children through EkoSkola Mrs. Claire Zammit M. Ed.

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1 Empowering Children through EkoSkola Mrs. Claire Zammit M. Ed.

2 The term ‘empowerment’ : – trendy in contemporary literature; – no one clear definition of this concept; – risks misinterpretation and unreflective adoption of this concept; – meaning and realisation of this concept in terms of the practices and experiences of individuals is still unclear and usually cloaked in romanticism. Overarching features in most views of empowerment are: – Ability to choose; – Taking control of one’s life – Acting towards achieving desired goals What is empowerment?

3 Cross-disciplinary issue. Its definition should depend upon the specific people and context involved (Bailey, 1992). Has a double reference, to the individual and to society (Kreisberg, 1992). Subsumes the idea of ‘power’: not ‘power over’, but ‘power with’(Kreisberg, 1992). Empowerment

4 My teaching experience; My motherhood experience; Current education emphasis on lifelong learning, quality of life and employability; Problems of world poverty and environment sustainability may reflect deeper problems in education (Schreiner, Banev & Oxley, 2005). Why empowerment?

5 To tease out, explore and analyse any emerging trends and patterns in the dynamic process of empowerment promoted through the experience of the EkoSkola programme in two local primary schools. – what constitutes the empowerment process? – what factors may contribute towards or hinder empowerment? – are any attitudinal changes or specific skills necessary towards the achievement of empowerment growth of individuals? – what is the relationship between empowerment and ‘diversity’, ‘participation’, ‘giving voice and choice’? Research Objectives

6 Pupil empowerment is cited as one of the main benefits in EkoSkola. EkoSkola offered a real context in which participants were voluntarily committed towards empowerment. Why EkoSkola?

7 Case study methodology was adopted Studied two schools participants in and at different stages of the EkoSkola programme. Collection of data involved: – Observation – to probe deeply analyse actions and behaviour participants may not talk about – Individual interviews – to gather data on less tangible aspects such as values, feelings, assumptions and problems – Group interviews – to diffuse attention across participants and allow interaction Participants were SMT, teachers and students, directly or indirectly involved in EkoSkola. Analysis was done at the micro (personal) and macro (social) level. Research Methodology

8 Empowerment process Research main findings Commitment Knowledge and Acquisition of competencies Attitudinal change Aim / Direction CelebrationEvaluationAction

9 EkoSkola is on voluntary basis - attracts those who are really interested in it. Eco-code needs to be effectively communicated to all the school to secure individual and collective commitment. Eco-code must be lived, otherwise members may feel their commitment is being wasted and empowerment process is stagnated. Main key towards empowerment is one’s desire to change to a better self. Commitment

10 Students need to be properly informed on issues relevant to their lives. Information needs to be multi-levelled and adapted to students’ ways of learning using different modes of presentation. Effective dissipation of information to the whole school and community regarding EkoSkola activities must occur. Information regarding individual skills and qualities, and responsibilities of members needs to be clear. Knowledge

11 Specific skills need to be acquired in order to act on resolution of issues. Main competences : – Decision making skills – ability to formulate meaningful options and act on their choices even if they fail from time to time; – Evaluative skills – leads to effective change; – A critical consciousness – through the practice of healthy discussions; – Autonomy and self-confidence – a sincere willingness towards sharing of power; students are allowed ample space to exercise autonomous thinking, are given a chance to voice their concerns and act on them to increase self-confidence. Certain character traits or inbuilt natural skills can speed up the process. Acquisition of competences

12 Without a change in consciousness, one would be more prone to make choices characterised by quick fixes or narrow aspirations. Healthy discussions are an opportunity for internalisation of values. A change in consciousness can then occur. Change in attitude

13 A clear aim needs to be transmitted through various media and to a wider population. Relevant expectations need to be projected. Desired outcomes of vision need to be modelled. Having a clear aim/direction

14 It is only when students take action that the EkoSkola experience leaves an impact on their way of thinking and behaving. Level of student participation needs to be high. Students feel important when their ideas are considered and they are given an opportunity to act on them. Action

15 If evaluation is not given importance ineffective results may lead to a loss of interest and process is stalled. Evaluation

16 Extrinsic awards, such as the Green Flag, helps to keep individuals motivated and optimistic. It also acts as a catalyst for inspiring participants’ strengths. When success is shared, the sense of achievement and collective motivation is increased. Celebration increases self-confidence. Main focus should be on the processes towards achieving their goal rather than on the extrinsic awards. Celebration

17 The empowerment process needs a framework based on: – Inclusion – Holistic approach – Democracy – Healthy relationships Proper framework

18 Effective use of resources Sensitivity to diversity Student-centred approach (students need to perceive themselves as active and perceive their teacher as a resource) Effective evaluation practices Good modelling of behaviour Relevant expectations Celebration of strengths and accomplishments through various forms (increases self-confidence) Reaching out for support Good information flow Whole school approach (teamwork and sharing of power increases trust) Use of discussion, experiential and cooperative learning (gives voice and increases critical consciousness and self-confidence) Strategies conducive to empowerment

19 Lack of autonomy. Lack of SMT/colleagues’ understanding. Lack of resources or not knowing how to use it effectively, with a special reference to human resources. Overloaded curriculum. Students accustomed to passive roles in class and whose decision are usually taken by adults. Factors hindering empowerment

20 Children need to be trained to become responsible persons. Teachers who believe in the concept of empowerment need to be empowered themselves. By empowering oneself one can understand what can motivate others to become empowered. Schools need to be empowering workplaces by: – Adopting democratic practices; – Building healthy relationships among students and adult colleagues through a sincere willingness of power sharing; – Adopting a holistic approach; – Adopting an inclusive approach and respond to diversity; – SMT being aware and making proper use of human resource skills amongst teachers. A number of ideas featuring in the NCF are important ingredients to the empowerment process. Thus this process together with the objectives and ideas of NCF can lead to quality education. Recommendations

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