|What is democratic education?
Democratic Education is education in which all members of the school community have a voice and share real power in making decisions about all aspects of educational practice. This includes the children and young people attending a school, as well as their teachers, parents and other members of the community.
A key principle of democratic education is pupil/student participation – often called ‘Student Voice’. Participation can take many forms but it is essentially involvement in a collective decision-making process. Pupil/student participation is important because the majority of young people appreciate the benefits of education and want to make their time in school as positive and rewarding as possible. They often have good ideas that can contribute to their schools as well as educational policies in general. By giving all young people in schools a voice they have the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning, and practise the skills inherent in participation that will be essential for them as adults living in a democracy.
Support for student voice and student participation in schools is increasing. A range of organisations support schools in the development of student voice projects, and official bodies such as Ofsted now look to see how pupils and students actively contribute to school developments on a regular basis.
What are the benefits of democratic education?
In 2006 the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust commissioned research into the impact of student participation in schools and colleges. The research noted a range of outcomes, some of the most important of which were:
- ‘students in more democratic schools were happier and felt more in control of their learning;
- if students gave feedback on teaching, this had the twin effect of teachers’ practice improving and students gaining in awareness of the learning process;
- participation enhanced skills of communication and competence as a learner;
- behaviour was improved (although this focussed mainly on students rather than teacher).’
(Inspiring Schools: Impact and Outcomes Prof Lynn Davies, Dr Christopher Williams and Hiromi Yamashita with K Man-Hing, Aubrey)
"The movement to promote real participatory democracy through the medium of education involves important procedural values. These include tolerance of diversity, mutual respect between individuals and groups, a respect for evidence in forming opinions, a willingness to be open to the possibility of changing one's mind in the light of such evidence, the possession of a critical stance towards political information and finally, seeing that all people have equal social and political rights as human beings."
Peace Pledge Union
How to find out more
This website is designed to give you further information about democratic education – what it is, why it’s beneficial, how it works in practice, where it’s happening in the UK and abroad, and where you can find help and support.