This idea results from the importance of learning social interactions and understanding that Citizenship is learned through experiential processes and not by the transmissivity of thoughts and/or ideas (Monteiro, 2017).
As the General Education Administration of Portugal (DGE) (2013) points out, “the practice of citizenship constitutes a process that is a participated, individual and collective, that calls for reflection and action on the problems felt by each one and by society” (p.1). In this sense, talking about citizenship implies talking about children’s participation in an educational context. Participation is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (OHCHR, 1990), and it is subject to the involvement (direct and indirect) of children in the actions and/or decision-making of all matters concerning them or that in any way affects their life. This implies that the adult is influenced by the decisions and opinions of the children and that they take them into account in the processes and results (Cuevas-Parra, 2017; Tusla, 2015; Welty & Lundy, 2013).
This involves recognizing children as capable, with the ability to express their views and freely develop their opinions. It should be noted that for the participation of children one must consider their age and maturity (OHCHR, 1990). Participation, in an educational context, is expressed in actions, practices and dialogues with adults and other children (Scottish Government, 2020). Participation should be a free process and, therefore, the child should have the opportunity to choose whether to participate (Lundy, 2007).
The participation of children in an educational context can have several benefits such as increased self-esteem, development of social skills, promotion of communication and problem solving and awareness about the practice of citizenship (Correia et al., 2020).
According to the Lundy Model (2007), children’s participation is a process that combines space, voice, influence, and audience. Based on the Children’s Convention, participation includes the freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion of association; as well as the right to express their views on all matters affecting them, access to information, and to participate in the cultural life of the community.
Space is a place of well-being, joy, and pleasure open to the plural experiences and interests of children and communities. It must respect personal and social identities and be open to the play and culture.
Considering children’s voices means that they can express their opinions and experiences about issues that concern them and take their opinion and perspective into account. Children must be consulted during decision-making that affects them.
To have a significant influence, in addition to giving children a voice, their opinions and perspectives must be taken seriously. Children should be informed of how their views have been considered. It refers to the opportunity of children to be heard and their opinions and actions are considered by those who make decisions, and by the community where they belong (adults and other children).
Kindergarten should be a place of well-being, pleasure, and joy, receptive to the experiences and plural interests of children and the community. The space should be inclusive, encouraging children to give their opinion and views (Welty & Lundy, 2013).For this it is important to create environments that promote expression/communication, considering the contexts and capacities of children (Cuevas-Parra, 2017). It also implies ensuring that children’s opinions are actively heard by the individuals or organizations that make the decisions (Welty & Lundy, 2013; Kennan, Brady, & Forkan, 2019). Adults, in addition to listening to what children have to say, should consider their views in decision-making. Adults should be receptive to being influenced by children (Welty & Lundy, 2013).For citizenship to be present in the culture of a school, based on participation and co-responsibility, it is necessary to value citizenship and sustainable development in the curriculum throughout all levels of education and to integrate citizenship education into teacher education.