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What makes a learner-friendly school?

April 22, 2008

Hello again,

The title might seem like a strange question: after all, English language schools exist for their learners. But the point is that learners...

... are quite vulnerable and, in a sense, the school is a power structure. I feel therefore that each school needs to reflect on how it treats all its learners and to take measures to ensure that it provides an environment that can nurture students and help them realize their full potential. I have adapted the UN’s checklist for child-friendly schools as the basis of this item as it covers the key issues in being learner-centric.

A learner-friendly school will:
• Reflect and realize the rights of every student by promoting and monitoring the well-being and rights of all learners, and providing a safe and secure environment.

• See and understand the whole person in a broad context. This means understanding their needs in the round, not just their educational needs. The issues might include health, nutrition, cultural and religious needs as well as an awareness of how their learning will impact on their future lives.

• Be learner-centred and encourage participation, creativity, self-esteem, and psycho-social well-being; promoting a structured, curriculum and teaching-learning methods appropriate to the student’s developmental level, abilities, and learning style.

• Be gender-sensitive by reducing to constraints to gender equity and eliminating gender stereotypes.

• Promote quality outcomes by encouraging students to think critically, ask questions, express their opinions, and learn how to learn.

• Provide education based on the reality of students’ lives by ensuring that curricular content responds to the learning needs of individuals as well as to the general objectives of their education system and their personal situation (e.g., by providing certificates and documentation that might be needed by employers or other educational organizations).

• Be flexible and respond to diversity by meeting different circumstances and needs of learners (e.g., as determined by gender, culture, social class, current situation).

• Act to ensure inclusion, respect, and equality of opportunity for all learners by not stereotyping, excluding, or discriminating.

• Promote mental and physical health by providing emotional support , encouraging healthy behaviour and practices, and providing a supportive environment.

• Provide accessible education at a fair price, making some provision for those who do not have the financial resources to attend full-fee courses (e.g., by offering scholarships, part-time classes).

• Enhance teacher capacity, morale, commitment, and status by ensuring that its teachers have sufficient pre-service training, in-service support and professional development, status, and income.

I think this type of approach is a way of reconciling the sometimes opposing imperatives of the commercial and the educational. Yes, schools are commercial enterprises, but they deal with human beings and they need a philosophy that underpins their activities ethically and morally. In future post I will discuss some of the individual points in greater detail.

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