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Tuesday 21 May 2019
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Student-centred learning



AS THE name implies, a student-centred curriculum places focus on the child, ensuring that the peculiar needs of the child are taken into consideration.

Understanding that not all children learn the same way owing to their varied learning styles and preferences, the student-centred approach via the differentiated classroom should be the preferred educational model adopted in all modern education systems.

This ideal would have been touted by previous education leaders, planners and technocrats but requisite systems for its successful implementation are yet to be instituted for a number of reasons.

As we continue to reflect on the findings of the World Bank Development Report: Learning to Realise Education’s Potential, TTUTA would have articulated the view that the attempt to impose a child-centred approach onto a system characterised and driven by high-stakes examinations leaves teachers confused about their roles and makes the nature and purpose of education nebulous.

Both approaches are inadvertently opposed to each other with high-stakes systems essentially being driven on the basis of competition and ultimately exclusion, compared to student-centred approaches premised on the belief that all children can learn and achieve their maximum human potential if taught and stimulated in the right manner.

While our defined educational outcomes tout creativity and innovation, our learning structures and systems are predicated on lower-level learning, notwithstanding claims and assertions by the authorities to the contrary.

If students are to be taught to be creative and innovative it stands to reason that teachers must be given the leeway and encouragement to be creative and innovative in their teaching methodologies.

Given the rigid demand to complete prescribed curricula, innovation and creativity take a back seat in the context of SEA, CSEC and CAPE, with schools’ and teachers’ performance being judged on these results.

While teachers may desire to engage in holistic learning, system barriers to such approaches to learning continue to challenge us. The political will to address these barriers continue to be coated with fear of sectoral interests that don’t prioritise learning.

From an outcomes perspectives it is evident that there is misalignment between our educational goals and our learning systems and structures. While we desire a knowledge-creating society, where all citizens can be critical and innovative thinkers and problem-solvers, our antiquated modus operandi renders such ideals laudable but improbable.

This mismatch between system and outcome constitutes a poor investment approach to human capital development, resulting in significant amounts of unrealised human potential, diminishing the capacity of the country as a whole to realise its development agenda.

The creativity paralysis that translates into the society being consumers rather than creators of knowledge will continue to plague us, undermining our efforts to eliminate poverty and social inequality.

High levels of societal dysfunction characterised by crime and criminality is the ultimate outcome of this misalignment. National productivity indices will continue to fail expectations while social disenchantment manifests in distrust by citizens for law, order and democratic institutions.

Based on the prompting of the report, we will do well to focus on how to extricate ourselves from this failed education paradigm. The answer must begin with political will on the part of elected and informal leaders, even in the face of severe criticisms.

Technocrats and civic-minded citizens must lead the discussion without fear, educating the populace about the benefits of changing the status quo. Sectoral interests must not be allowed to take precedence over national developmental goals.

Student-centred approaches to education will yield the long-term human development we desire, where all citizens’ productive capacity is nurtured through schooling and ultimately harnessed in its inherent diversity.

Schooling must become more relevant and meaningful to all students. Education must become a pleasurable experience for all, with creativity being encouraged without fear. Teachers must be able to engage in activities that stimulate the vast potential of the human mind, thereby creating the foundation for innovation, invention and creativity.

These are not new approaches to education and the promised results have been the outcomes of education systems that made that bold leap to educate people rather than train workers. Schools will now truly become centres of excellence focused primarily on the child.

At the macro societal level there must also be a radical shift in mind-set, beginning with the understanding that certification does not equate with education. Learning “how to learn” is now more relevant than “what to learn” given the rapid advances in communication technologies.

The capacity of the individual to analyse, evaluate and create underlies the creation of globally competitive societies.

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