Agency and Participation in Childhood and Youth: International Applications of the Capability Approach in Schools and Beyond (2014, London, Bloomsbury)

Hart, Caroline Sarojini; Biggeri, Mario; Babic, Bernhard (2014). 'Agency and Participation in Childhood and Youth: International Applications of the Capability Approach in Schools and Beyond (2014, London, Bloomsbury)' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Agency and Participation in Childhood and Youth presents new critical engagement in conceptualising the roles of youth agency and participation in education, development and the pursuit of social justice.  Theoretically, the book is framed within the paradigm of the capability approach, initially developed by Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, and further differentiated by others, including philosopher, Martha Nussbaum. The book unravels the complex relationships between the nature of youth agency and participation, in education, but also in wider political, economic and social arenas, and the potential of young people to expand their freedoms to lead lives they have reason to value.  It is thus argued that ethical, sustainable development is contingent on the nature of youth agency and participation in schooling and further afield. 

There are five principal aims of this edited volume.  First of all, the book aims to explore constructions of agency and participation and to identify key challenges in promoting these core concepts in relation to children and young people.  These concepts in turn raise questions about further related concepts, such as 'inclusion', about which Hedge and MacKenzie have argued there is no meaningful consensus (2012), and 'engagement', a term prevalent in 'new civics' discourse.  Second, the book aims to position schooling within the wider landscape of children's lives, for example with regard to poverty, labour, health and democratic participation in society.  The third principal aim of the book is to endeavour to illuminate the factors in wider society that affect individuals' capabilities to participate in schooling in ways that promote their human flourishing.  The fourth aim of the book is to explore the places and spaces where education takes place and to examine responsibilities, duties and obligations towards children and young people at individual, local, national and international levels.  The fifth aim is to draw upon empirical data from a number of international case studies to facilitate the conceptual discussions and also to offer examples of the application of the capability approach to research with young people in schools and beyond.

This book is presented in two parts.  Part I, Agency and Participation in Childhood and Youth contains five chapters addressing broad theoretical and conceptual issues.  Part II, Developing Agency and Capabilities in Schools and Beyond, contains seven chapters, drawing on international cases studies to consider how children and young people's agency and capabilities can flourish.

The book foregrounds the way that individually valuable education may take place almost anytime and anywhere.  Schools are just one context offering opportunities, without doubt a crucial one for those who experience it. However, as some contributions show, in many parts of the world primary, secondary and tertiary education is often still a privilege, and for different kinds of reasons, inaccessible in the same way for everybody. Even in wealthy societies socially selective processes can be observed, which sometimes seem to be quite resistant against attempts to overcome them.  Thus, increasing the efforts for wider accessibility of an educational system is still a central challenge for policy makers across the globe.  

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