Society as a whole now understands the importance of a more rounded approach to education, focusing on children’s personal development rather than just academic achievements. Developing and fostering a more child-centric culture, therefore, is becoming a more important foundation of early childhood education.
Here at Akeley Wood Junior School, rather than adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, we’re committed to fostering a child-centric culture, in which we follow the lead of the child, focusing on their needs and their interests to help them develop their potential. This approach is apparent throughout the school, from planning led by children’s interests in nursery and reception to our Akeley Learner Profile which is embedded throughout the school. This celebrates behaviours such as resilience and collaboration which are integral parts of learning.
So, let’s take a closer look into what a child-centric culture means for educators and why we should all work together to understand its essence and how we can make it benefit the next generation.
A child-centric approach means recognising and making sure that the child is put first.
Every individual is different and will respond in their own way to certain situations. Using the right approach for each specific child will help them to engage with education better, retain information and enjoy learning and may also enhance their self-esteem which benefits them in every aspect of life.
In my experience, children want to be respected, they want their views to be heard and they want to develop stable relationships with educators which are built on trust. Children look for consistent support provided for their individual needs and these requirements should guide the behaviour of education professionals. They need to listen to what children are saying, take their views seriously and work with them collaboratively when deciding on how to support their needs.
To be truly child-centric, the curriculum needs to be concept based (not content based) and developmental (a continuum of concept development), not just a standard approach. There’s still a body of content that children need to know and understand, but skills such as communication, both written and oral, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and interacting within a diverse environment are equally as important. Giving children a real-life purpose for their learning is equally important. This encourages them to make links across the curriculum and have more of an awareness of their position within the wider world.
In a classroom of 15 children you will come across 15 different learning styles and 15 different personalities, and great educators understand that. Of course it’s impossible to create 15 different lesson plans, however it is possible to understand the differences among the students, treat them as individuals and support them to feel able to work at their own pace. It is of great importance to determine each child’s starting point in relation to an objective, to ensure each child makes progress and are appropriately supported and challenged. As educators we need to have classroom strategies that enable these different learning styles and allow students to work together and help each other. Students should also be encouraged to be reflective to determine how they themselves can move their learning forward.
It’s important to not expect the students to conform to a certain mould but actively encourage them to find their own distinct voice, embrace their diversity and find productive ways of expressing it.
Educating and developing children to become mature, motivated and empathetic members of society means truly connecting with them and providing them with a safety net so they can experiment and develop their skills, knowledge and personalities without being scared that they will fail. It’s about making them feel like valued members of the community while they’re still in the classroom and teaching them skills which will benefit them throughout their lives.
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