NEW YORK, 17 January 2012 – Young people often report that they are not given the opportunity to participate in processes that affect their lives; or when they are, they often feel their participation is not meaningful enough.
A new case study on youth participatory research supported by UNICEF’s Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition (EEPCT) programme, or Back on Track, looks at the methodology and processes used in ‘A Study of Adolescent and Youth Perspectives on Education Quality in the Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) Region’ (henceforth referred to as ‘Adolescent and Youth Perspectives Research’).
This case study is part of a series supported by the Back on Track programme in an effort to highlight innovative and substantial programming through hallmark interventions.
This case study helps to strengthen the future use of and rationale for youth participatory designs in UNICEF programming. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘Adolescent and Youth Perspectives Research’ methodology and process, and by highlighting best practices and recommendations for future scale up, UNICEF and partners are better positioned to more effectively implement current and future efforts that meaningfully involve youth.
Background on ‘Adolescent and Youth Perspectives Research’
Research undertaken by the UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Office in 2007 and 2009 revealed troubling indicators of deteriorating education quality in the CEE/CIS region, with distinct effects on adolescents and youth.
In response to this, the ‘Adolescent and Youth Perspectives Research’ was implemented to investigate the impact of fragility on education quality in Chechnya (Russian Federation), Georgia, Kosovo and Tajikistan, and its impact on adolescents and youth; analyse adolescent and youth views in order to identify regional trends concerning the impact of fragility on education quality; and to identify the areas of education quality in most urgent need of attention.
UNICEF conducted a series of nationally representative, participatory studies on youth perspectives on education quality. Youth were at the heart of this work, researching and describing their understanding and experiences of education quality and its drivers. Youth were offered the opportunity and responsibility to “assess youth opinions about education quality based principally on their most recent experiences with formal education systems but also experiences in the more distant past, including before, during and after armed conflict.”
Peer-to-peer participation key to meaningful research about youth
UNICEF staff and consultants concluded that the ‘Adolescent and Youth Perspectives Research’ provided a unique and strong entry point for discussion with their ministries of education. The study was the “first time ever for this kind and level of focused research”. It provided a first glimpse at post-primary education needs and their specific differences from primary education. The research filled gaps in existing reliable data, and the information gained was ever more important because it “comes directly from youth” and “is grounded on young people’s realities and opinions”.
The youth researchers felt strongly that research offers an opportunity to build capacity, engage the marginalized, inspire action and highlight youth capabilities. The involvement of youth throughout the study was a highlight of how the study was designed and implemented.
The youth researchers strongly believed that the young people being interviewed were more likely to discuss their problems with people of the same age and background. This “safe space” allowed young people to speak freely and explore issues important to them.
“The [participatory] process strengthens the capacity and skills of youth so that they can be prepared in their future role as decision makers,” explains Matthew Emry, author of the case study on youth participatory research. “It ensures that the issues and solutions identified truly reflect the needs and desires of young people. It builds the confidence of communities that young people can and are eager to participate positively in their society. It is a concrete down payment on our promise to invest in their future.”