Community participation in the educational process [Archives:2008/1182/Opinion]

August 18 2008

Dr. Badr Saeed Al-Aghbari
Developing education in Yemen and helping it get rid of its current unsatisfactory situation reflects the availability of a strong desire on the part of the local community and its concern about education. As long as public opinions throughout Yemen agree that education means Yemen's national security, it is illogical for anyone to say or believe that the education ministry is the only authority responsible for education.

In order for the educational process to develop, the situation necessitates full engagement of the local community in the process. It also requires all Yemeni people to be collectively responsible for the process. Consequently, we feel a pressing need to define 'participation'.

The concepts of community participation vary, but most of them relate with planning and development, as well as the concentration on man considering him the vital tool of participation, which has turned to be key to good development in all the political, economic and social areas.

Some experts define 'community participation' as citizens' voluntary contribution to all the actions of development, be it in the form of making constructive suggestions, offering help, funding or providing required consultation.

Other experts sees 'community participation' as reflecting a positive, democratic popular will, based on encouraging communities to meet challenges and address pressing issues, which people face in their daily lives. These challenges or issues are, in one way or another, related with community affairs. According to the second group of experts, participation neither accepts individual dominance nor viewpoints or suggestions imposed by powerful groups.

Participation is a democratic process based on a free will. This free will is usually started by the community, and must be followed by thinking, planning, implementation and oversight in order to ensure successful participation.

With specific reference to community participation in the educational process, one can define it as voluntary effective and positive contribution of citizens, individuals and groups, and non-profit organizations with the aim of developing the educational process, making it successful, correctly modifying its progress and achieving sought-after objectives in this regard. An effective contribution to the educational process also requires further community's engagement in efforts expended for reaching education-oriented objectives, building good knowledge realm within the community, and enriching education curricula in and outside school.

Significance of community's contribution to education:

Community contribution to the educational process is deemed as one of the basic human rights ensured by the relevant international conventions and legislations. This kind of contribution confirms that people have the right to take part in addressing issues of their community via expressing their opinions and offering help to others. This is why community's contribution to education is considered a democratic and humanitarian principle.

Another reason for seeing this kind of contribution as significant, if not indispensable, is that it helps develop patriotism and national loyalty, as well as eliminate all the negative phenomena. It also helps empower citizens to practice their right with regard to making decisions concerning their communities.

Participation is considered a scientific practice of a social responsibility by individuals or groups in favor of the community to which they belong. Members of the same community hold themselves responsible for anything going wrong in their community, and therefore exchange consultations with each other to address any pressing problems that may hamper their community's development.

Democracy in education:

Also, community participation turns to be an effective tool to encourage citizens to contribute to development of their own communities and support any governmental efforts in this regard. Community participation in the educational process becomes prerequisite for achieving democracy in education, and this kind of democracy encourages the interest of beneficiary groups in education, and therefore convinces them to support by all means the educational process in their communities.

At this point, it is impossible for anyone to think about separating between community participation and the educational process. An educational process may not be effective unless the community feels that it needs it, and then contributes to making it successful.

Consequently, the significance of voluntary community contribution to education goes beyond the limit of specific political actions and practices as its essences focuses further on national education of community members. Via effective community contribution to the educational process, educational institutions build strategies and procedures for encouraging communication between their staff and other members in the community. And, the outcome will be good quality education that helps produce skilled outputs with a good sense of democracy.

Source: Al-Thawra State-run Daily