Children’s Participation, Progressive Autonomy, and Agency for Inclusive Education in Schools

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Children’s Participation, Progressive Autonomy, and Agency for Inclusive Education in Schools


  • Marta B. Esteban Institute for Educational Research, University of Barcelona, Spain


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Abstract:  Whereas children’s agency and their right to civic participation have been extensively discussed in childhood studies, especially within sociology, their presence in pedagogical studies is still scarce. We intend to contribute to tentatively plugging that gap by analysing the need for a change of perspective in school settings based on acknowledging children as participatory social actors. We are committed to an epistemological broadening of the expression “inclusive education” that complements the traditional and necessary meaning of “reaching to all learners”; a broadening grounded on the configuration of intergenerational relationships in which children participate in schools as learners and partners, as agents who are part of their community and take part in it. Schools are thus transformed into inclusive democratic educational communities or fellowships that include children in the decision‐making on those aspects that affect them, according to their progressive autonomy, while validating their knowledge and experiences. The article is framed on the sustainable development goals (SDG), specifically on SDG no.4, to ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education, and SDG no.16, which urges to promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies and the consolidation of institutions. Our stance is that a significant step forward to achieving these goals is that schools should prepare for life in democracy by being experienced and run democratically. This involves children’s gradual participation in school management, from the micro to the macro level. To this end, we focus on three key elements: children’s rights to participation, the principle of progressive autonomy, and acknowledging children’s agency in schools.

Keywords:  agency rights; children’s agency; children’s participation; children’ rights; evolving capacities; inclusive education; progressive autonomy; sustainable development goals

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v10i2.4936


© Marta B. Esteban. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.