Letter to the Editor

Characteristics of child-centred learning

Dear editor,
OVER the past 17 years of employment, I have come to appreciate the inevitable – learner-centred teaching.
For this reason, I sought the ideas of renowned scholars and other educators to blend their experiences and recommendations with my own in my quest to attain maximum results for each child I have taught.
An educator’s burden is the task of ensuring that each child passes an examination and this burden turns into joy when the child’s results are good.
Of course, there are many theories and practices that have been proposed to constitute learner-centred education.
For the purpose of this submission, I will adopt Jason Flom’s five characteristics of learner-centred learning:
1. Learner-centred teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning.
2. Learner-centred teaching includes explicit skill instruction.
3. Learner-centred teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it.
4. Learner-centred teaching motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes.
5. Learner-centred teaching encourages collaboration.
How many Zambian schools can boast of any of these? If we follow them, we do well.
Indeed, we can have a whole lot of other practices that help to foster learning.
My take is that learner-centred learning is characterised by diminished teacher focus and enlarged pupil focus. This means that education should be tailored to suit individual learners.
There’s no such thing as one size fits all for education. In view of this, I am at odds with blotted classrooms typical of our government schools. A maximum of 35 pupils per class for a teacher with four classes should be an average in our situation.
In the absence of this, my readers can only imagine how little meaningful interaction takes place between most of our learners and their teachers. Ultimately, our skills, knowledge and experiences are hardly passed on to the learners.
That is why we have too many tuition centres which, unfortunately, are becoming crowded rapidly because of the quest for individualised education.
Lastly, I am of the view that learners should learn in an atmosphere of academic freedom where they can make mistakes freely on their path to improvement. This is a far cry when we look at the fearsome manner in which some teachers conduct business.
Our pupils should respect us and not fear us. So let’s desist from using strong language, which can hurt pupils emotionally and discourage future participation in class activities as a result of injured self-ego and fear of embarrassment or punishment, both all of which may hinder learning.
As we seek to improve the quality of education, we should ensure that we are promoting learner-centred education.

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