Channels to allow students to express their voice

By Hakim Mahari

The term ‘student voice’ refers to students’ individual and collective perspectives and actions in the context of learning and education. Not only that it effectively alter a school’s educational climate, but it can also boost student achievement and promote workforce readiness.

Each and every student in every classroom has a voice that should be heard in the classroom. Student’s voice enables students to communicate with their peers, parents, teachers, and the entire school about who they are, what they believe in, and why they believe what they believe.

Students are eager to contribute to the solution and voice their opinions, rather than contributing to the problem. They develop a sense of belonging as a result of their increased attachment and positive relationships with peers, teachers, classmates, school, and the larger community.

President of the Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences Student Society (IRKHSSS), Anas Hayyan believes that students can express their concerns in both conventional and unconventional ways. Both approaches would have their advantages and disadvantages. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to express concerns, as the context of the situation must also be considered.

“As a student representative, you may possess the same or even greater passion for advocating for students’ concerns and voices. However, while you will share the same concerns as other students, you will need to consider your privilege and position in order to find the best solution.

For instance, while we understand the students’ reluctance to demonstrate, we will need to step up and use our capacity as a student representative to assist them in the negotiation process and convey the message to higher-ups during the demonstration,” he added.

Making students feel invested in their learning is one of the most effective strategies for influencing academic achievement and classroom dynamics. Students, like adults, generally need to feel they have a say in how activities are conducted to feel motivated and engaged.

However, several elements need to be considered in voicing an opinion as it must be inclusive, starting with the premise that everyone is a member. It must be woven into the school’s daily fabric; it must address substantive issues; and it must eventually result in constructive action.

One of the most difficult challenges is striking a balance between excessive and insufficient adult participation. Over-involvement of adults dilutes student’s voice and fails to engage students as true problem solvers and stakeholders. If there is insufficient representation, student voice will become diffused, exclusive, and ineffective. To be thoughtful stakeholders in the improvement of teaching and learning, students require adult mentors and listeners.

The inclusion of ‘student voice’ benefits a university’s ethics by considering the calibre and abilities of a sizeable proportion of the student body. However, this must be done with caution and consideration.

Institutions like the university and those bodies at the district, and state levels can involve students in decision-making or take student perspectives into account. This approach can take several forms: policymakers can consider allowing the students to take part in decision-making bodies such as state or district university boards or on university committees in a voting or advisory capacity; they can form a group of students to serve on a parallel, student-only body akin to a student university board; or they can create student advisory committees in the same way that many states and districts do.

By including students’ perspectives on governing bodies, we can engage students more actively in the educational system and provide a perspective that is frequently overlooked. Students, as consumers and beneficiaries of the educational system, have a unique perspective that differs from that of teachers, administrators, and parents, and this perspective can shed light on novel approaches or solutions. Engaging student perspectives generate critical feedback and instil a sense of ownership in students, which can result in improved performance.

Student governments, also known as student councils, are made up of student representatives who provide input and oversight on school-related issues. A student council’s membership varies by school. Typically, student councils have a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. Representatives typically run for office and are elected by their peers. Students may be appointed in some instances by elected students or by the school administration.

Student councils’ responsibilities are occasionally outlined in a formal framework such as bylaws or a constitution. Typically, student councils have no authority over university budgeting, hiring, compensation and other personnel matters, discipline, grades, or the length of the school day.

They do, however, share responsibility for welcoming new students, spiritual activities and volunteer activities, and other events. They frequently exercise complete control over student council initiatives, fundraising for council projects, and staff appreciation. In general, school administrations can assign student councils specific responsibilities or projects and pair them with a faculty adviser.

Additionally, student councils can retain autonomy and budget authority over the programs they administer. Student councils can have a significant impact on the university climate as liaisons between administrators and students.

As can be seen, IIUM has also played a role in establishing student representatives as a body that acts as a liaison between students and administrators, first through the Student Representative Council (SRC) and now through the IIUM Student Union (IIUMSU).

The establishment of IIUMSU on 5 September 2019 was marked by its members’ solidarity, shared governance with the university administration, and autonomy in managing student affairs. It was the first student-led autonomy and governance in a Malaysian university, demonstrating the university’s commitment to student affairs.

Deputy Rector, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zulkifli Hasan emphasised the importance of university students using the student council as a platform to express their concerns and opinions, as those councils frequently engage with the administrative office on a casual basis. Each student council is founded on the principle of providing a proper channel for students to express their opinions from students’ perspective.

“The administration, led by IIUM Rector, Tan Sri Prof Emeritus Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, is more receptive to student recommendations and suggestions, and it is prudent for students to avoid using any platform that violates the law,” he stressed.

Recently, the Kulliyyah Based Society Council (KBSC) was officially established after a motion to establish the council received a majority support in the Student Parliament. The council is comprised of all presidents of Kulliyyah Based Societies, including Pagoh.

KBSC serves as a conduit for information from central offices and any student body or council to reach all students without leaving anyone behind, and for issues raised by students from kulliyyah to be addressed in a systematic and efficient manner to the administration and IIUM Student Parliament.

According to Chairman of KBSC, Adriana Naziha, each Kulliyyah Based Society has its own method of addressing students’ concerns, with some KBS creating their own survey form and another medium for students to voice their concerns and issues. As a result of the feedback received, KBSC will discuss the matter with members of the IIUM Student Union, the university’s highest student body.

“Once the council decides with the approval of IIUMSU, the solution will be referred to the appropriate office. The information gleaned from the decision-making process and solutions will later be disseminated to all students by all Kulliyyah Based Societies via KBSC,” she was informed.***

Hakim Mahari

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