. Why Consult Pupils

From OER in Education


There are various reasons as to why we should consult pupils when it comes to HIV/AIDS education.

Firstly, we know HIV/AIDS education works, and that it requires a participatory teaching and learning method to develop understanding among teachers, parents, and their children. That is why we have created this toolkit for teachers use. For example, in Zimbabwe, a recent study showed that HIV prevalence rates were much lower among 15-19-year-olds who were attending school. This tells us that formal education may have a protective role. Similar results were found in 15–24-year-olds in southern Africa, especially among girls who typically have 5 times the infection rate as similar aged boys. We believe formal education can work as a social vaccine. Education is very powerful in helping to reduce rates of HIV/AIDS, but unfortunately many HIV/AIDS education programmes have been biological (fact based) and has lacked connections to the young people’s social experiences. When young people cannot relate school based HIV/AIDS education to their lives and experiences, the impact is limited.

Secondly, young people have often asked for recognition, saying there is a big gap between the education they need and what is being provided by their parents and educators. They want the opportunity, within open dialogue, to learn about the emotional implications of relationships as well as the biology of sex and sexual health promotion. They want a chance to talk about the problem and the disease. Research has found pupils have much to say about their teaching and learning. When their perspectives are taken seriously they feel more positive about themselves as learners, can understand and manage their own progress better, and feel more included in the school’s purposes. They believe that what they say makes a difference. The teachers involved in consulting with pupils also find it beneficial; it helps them understand how to support pupil engagement and build more open, collaborative and communicative relationships with their pupils. To achieve this, it would be helpful if teachers consulted their pupils on their knowledges and needs.Research suggests (see additional readings below) that it is productive for teachers to consult with pupils and talk with them about things that really matter. This may involve:

  • conversations about teaching and learning;
  • seeking advice from pupils about new initiatives;
  • inviting comments on ways of solving problems that are affecting the teacher’s right to teach and the pupil’s right to learn;
  • inviting evaluative comments on recent developments in school or classroom policy and practice.

Consultation must be genuine on the part of the teachers and provide the opportunity to hear from silent or silenced pupils. This would help in understanding why some disengage, and what would help them get back on track (see the guidelines for consultation on the next page).

Honest consultation is not easy because it challenges traditional power relationships. Some teachers feel that pupils are too young and inexperienced to voice anything worthy. Teachers may also feel that there is little time to consult pupils or they may be uncertain about the process of consultation.However, researchers note that perhaps the most important principle for teachers to follow is to help pupils to feel

  • they really have a voice
  • they are listened to
  • and they matter.

Teachers are potentially one of the most important tools in HIV/AIDS education. Research tells us teachers can become these important tools when they engage in consultative learning and teaching. Not only does this approach enhance sustainability of positive teacher-pupil relationships, but it also builds capacity among the teachers to support pupil learning.

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E. Additional Readings



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