Are you listening to me? Understanding children's rights through Hungarian pedagogic practice

Canning, Natalie; Teszenyi, Eleonora and Pálfi, Sandor (2022). Are you listening to me? Understanding children's rights through Hungarian pedagogic practice. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 3(3) pp. 218–232.



Hungarian pedagogues agree that children should be listened to, have their rights recognised, and their voices heard. The UNCRC recommends that children’s rights should be part of early childhood education, but this is not typical in Hungarian kindergartens and there is little pedagogical material to support the education of children about their rights. This paper focuses on 5 kindergartens each typically accommodating over 150 children between the ages of 3-6 years old across Hungary. Six pedagogues worked with multi-age groups (4 kindergartens) and same-age groups (2 kindergartens). The research adopted participatory methods to gather children’s views recognising them as valuable collaborators. Children provided insight into their own lives through play based creative activities that focused on eliciting children’s thoughts and feelings. Pedagogues collected video data using a ‘toolkit’ of children’s play activities during a 6-week period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pedagogues reflected on children’s play through a series of online focus groups with emphasis on how children expressed their views and preferences through play. Participants were encouraged to examine the power relationships between children and adults and analyse their role in knowledge production rather than knowledge extraction. Six themes emerged through thematic analysis, mapped to the 4 guiding principles of children’s rights: participation, survival, development and protection. The findings highlight the juxtaposition between children’s life-as-experienced and life-as-told by adults; the skill of pedagogues to hear and sensitively interpret children’s voices based on their play and the challenge to slow down and reflect on practice.

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