Saturday, May 25, 2013

Charter of Children's Recognition

A Charter of Children's Recognition
By Salman Asif Siddiqui 
Founder and director of Educational Resource Development Centre.

Children learn best when they are respected, and this respect is every child’s right. If we take a look at the quality of experience that children undergo during their education,  we will arrive at the conclusion that it is filled with feelings of fear, insecurity, rejection, embarrassment, humiliation and guilt.

I often ask teachers if education without insults is possible and a lot of them wonder at my question. I
have asked many students, who have been top performers in their schools, if they have ever experienced a fear of disapproval and most of them say ‘yes’. Quality education cannot just be referred to the conceptual coverage of curriculum. Quality education needs to be redefined as making learning meaningful and enjoyable with making children feel unconditionally respected and recognised.

Recognising children is to accept and acknowledge them for what they are. Children should not be recognised conditionally on the basis of their test scores, mastery of a foreign language or show of obedience. They must be recognised wholly because they are human beings.

Children’s self-respect is something that remains at risk throughout their childhood. There is an acute need to have a national consensus on the protection of this basic children’s right. I would like to propose a Charter of Children’s Recognition for this purpose that is based on three fundamental principles. As per the dictionary definition, ‘charter’ is a document describing the rights that a particular group of people should have. It can serve as a practical guideline for teachers and parents to work with children and should be based on the following principles.

Listen and acknowledge 
How do you feel when you are not heard or acknowledged? You feel unimportant. Sometimes you feel disgraced. Listening can be a very powerful tool to make children feel important. Children bear tons of things to share ranging from interesting and weird questions, to realistic and hypothetical ideas, to a variety of sentiments and feelings.

Encourage children to express in whatever language they feel comfortable speaking in and listen to them without being impatient, judgmental or losing your temper. When you allow them say whatever they want to say in their preferred language, you will find a world that was hidden before. After having listened to children it is appropriate to acknowledge them by simply rephrasing what you have heard.
Acknowledging a child’s point of view does not mean agreeing with him or her. The act of acknowledging makes children feel understood and respected.

Recognise individuality without comparing 

How would you feel if you are compared with your colleagues all the time? Every child is creative in a different way. Expecting all children to be alike is unjust. They can be similar in some ways but actually they are all unique and therefore different from each other. Comparison between children communicates that you are not accepting children as what they are, rather demanding of them to be like their peers. It shatters their self confidence and they view themselves as incompetent. When we believe that every child is uniquely intelligent and creative, only then will we understand that it’s perfectly fine if they learn differently. Expecting all children to learn in the same way at
the same pace and respond invariably is absolutely inappropriate and ridiculous. Children show phenomenal development when they are accepted along with their individual learning styles and pace. Children must be recognised for what they do instead of what they have not done.

Unconditional respect and trust 

How children are treated when they are young has a huge effect on the type of people they will grow up to be. Children are born pure and innocent with delicate self-esteem. Their sense of self worth grows through approval from outside. What children need most are respect and trust, and not costly toys.
Respect is their basic need which comes prior to education. Quality education is to understand and treat children respectfully irrespective of their academic performance or behavioural state. One more reason for which children should be respected is that respect in itself is reciprocal. Children who are treated respectfully learn to be respectful and treat others respectfully, too. Respecting is natural when children do something which is desirable and socially acceptable. Respecting becomes challenging for many when children do something undesirable. We must remember that even in the latter case, we should disapprove the wrong doing but not disapprove of the child. This is to treat children respectfully and reject bad behaviour, if there is any.

Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal in his magnum opus work Javidnama introduced a clear vision for educators. He says, “The purpose of knowledge is nothing but to show you the splendors of yourself”. Education that compels children to understand the curriculum and does not understand and recognise the child cannot serve the child. The education process must not be impersonal because it dehumanises and demoralises learners through which the purpose of existence is adversely affected.

The writer is founder and director of Educational Resource Development Centre.


  1. Thank you Dr for sharing this! I have been a staunch supported to children's rights in the spectrum of their education lives. It is no surprise that children commit suicide when they are treated like products off the assembly line. In most cases around the world, which even applies to the US, UK too in addition to the usual post-colonial nations children are subjected to emotional stress, high family expectations, substandard economic circumstances, fragile social lives, insufficient entertainment, non-existent health care (physical and mental), inadequate accessibility to resources and what I believe is the most crucial factor is egoistic narrow mindedness of parents that restricts the inner potential of a child. Unless children determine to revolt in this regard and understand their own existence as human beings they're only allowing the limiting tendencies to grow upon their personality and character. Most people would disagree with me about the solution on this matter, but children need to tell their parents and their guardians that they're wrong in their policies. Most children are hesitent to do such a thing because it contradicts the loop mindset ingrained into their minds. However, I've personally experimented this solution with a few people and although eventual results are violent and tough, over time it actually works and parents begin to pay attention to their children even more.

    Telling policy makers (teachers, school administration, parents) to change their policies is as much of a joke for them as it is genuinely. Why would anybody in power, since the stated policy makers exercise their powers over children, relinquish or modify their policies in conformity with the comfort of somebody weaker to them even that they are their own children? There are exceptional parents of course who would like their children to be respected as individuals and human beings, but these parents are those who've been through (migrated) the harsh feudalistic familiy environments. So I would really look forward to a practicle implementation on this matter from the writer, one that has effect during the timeline of a child's school life.

  2. The reason why the policy makers will now have to listen to the children and the way they learn is because learning and schooling is increasingly becoming a pull-service rather than the earlier model of the push-service, where schools were pushing the curriculum and their way of teaching down the throats of willing (or unwilling) children. You will see the impact of this pull-model becoming increasing more potent with the prevalence of online resources, classes, MOOCs, interactive learning websites, khanacademy etc.