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Students are the primary stakeholders in the education system and should be involved in the decision making processes to improve education outcomes, quality and access in the Commonwealth.

In June 2009, the 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (17CCEM) was held in Malaysia where students stressed the need for greater focus to be given to the role they should take in the decision making processes of the Commonwealth. The student delegates also recommended that the “Commonwealth [should] develop standards for the governing of student bodies and organisations”, thus making it the remit of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) to support the strengthening of student/youth organisations.

Through its Strategic Plan for 2008-2012, the CYP committed itself to “contribute to the re-activation of democratic student movements by coordinating secondary and tertiary student representatives and involving them in decision-making about education policies”.

During this, regional and pan-Commonwealth consultations focused on enhancing greater participation of students in the Commonwealth.  Youth and student leaders across the Commonwealth strongly advocated that they should be meaningfully engaged in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.

The regional and online consultations concluded:

  • that policy makers should take into account the needs and aspirations of  students and help to identify and share best practice on student engagement
  • that the Commonwealth leaders and governments should identify the capacity challenges faced by students/youth and propose steps to support an enabling environment for student organisations to function with independence, legitimacy and respect;
  • that the Commonwealth should explore the possibility of building and strengthening regional and national student networks;
  • that a ‘student association’ was necessary and would  add value to the Commonwealth.

As a result of the consultations a draft constitution and concept documents were developed for the idea of a student body.

The 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM) Youth Forum was held in Mauritius in August 2012.  Student leaders aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth gathered to make recommendations on the current issues in education, enhance their capacities, and strengthen their role in the Commonwealth Education Sector. The 18CCEM Youth Forum provided the space for the draft constitution and draft concept papers to be tabled and debated. As a result of a rigorous deliberation process, the Commonwealth Students’ Association was launched and a steering committee was established with a two year mandate to operationalize the organisation.