The Analytical Tool on Competencies underscores learning outcomes—signalling acquired competencies—as an ultimate evidence of a quality education system and learning effectiveness. Learners on the other hand are the “ultimate producers” of learning outcomes since competencies have to be acquired by them. All other elements—teachers, the curriculum, learning environment—of the UNESCO General Education Quality Analysis/Diagnosis Framework (GEQAF) are to facilitate learners in producing desired learning outcomes. The GEQAF holds a view of the learner as not only a beneficiary of these facilitators, but as a “self-benefitting agent,” a “benefactor” and “the prime human resource” on which a quality education system depends for its effectiveness. However, most education systems view learners as beneficiaries that need to be acted upon, helped and/or developed. While learners do need facilitation, nothing and/or no one can learn on behalf of the learner and no learning can happen without the learner’s self-benefitting agency. Thus, a view of learners as empowered prime human resources of quality education systems is fundamental to reaching and sustaining quality education and effective learning.
Like all key human resources of a productive enterprise, education enterprises need to intelligently and strategically invest in learners as their prime producers. Accumulating research evidence on learning specifically and on education in general suggests that to be effective self-benefitting agents, learners require facilitation of different types across stages of their life cycle. For instance, advancements in overall brain research and on brain plasticity in particular should guide not only the scope and nature of investments but also the nature of investment that should enable learner efficiency and effectiveness in the process of learning (See: brain research on diverse learner needs across ages). We now know that investment in holistic child development (See: Holistic Child Development Index) between ages 0 to 8 is an indispensable facilitator of learner effectiveness in the learning process throughout life. Investment in early childhood development is the most resource efficient investment in the immediate and long term (See: Returns on investment in early years), and it is an early start at shared growth and inclusive development (See: Influential theories of learning). At the same time, brain plasticity research informs us of appropriate opportunities for learners in the late ages . For Latin America and the Caribbean region, the WFP has calculated that governments lose significant income in labour market underachievement, and lower learning results, due to brain underdevelopment, which in turn is attributed to feeding deficiencies.
Diagnosis and analysis
Our views / perspective of learners
Our views of learners
Our views of learner influences our decisions on the nature, scope and appropriateness of inputs, teaching and learning processes, outcomes, programmes, policies and systems.
- What is our formal/official view of our learners? Who is involved in articulating this view? Are those who should be involved really involved? Where is the evidence of their involvement? What are the drivers that change our view of learners? Where are the key markers of this change and where is the changing view documented?
- Is the formal/official view of learner still relevant today? Is there any discrepancy between the formal/official views expressed in different official documents (e.g. education policy, strategy, curriculum)?
- Do local administrators, teachers and educators, professionals and parents hold the formal/official view of learner? If not, how are their views different from the formal/official view, and why is there such a discrepancy?
Knowing our learners and responding to their needs
Learners have diverse needs, arising from individual and family characteristics as well as the political, socio-economic and cultural contexts in which they live and learn. For learners to be able to learn effectively, their diverse needs and characteristics should be understood properly, and duly taken into account in designing and planning a range of policy and programme inputs and processes, such as financial allocation, delivery modes, teacher recruitment and deployment, learning environments and facilities, teaching and pedagogical methods, contents, materials, languages of instruction and interaction, support services, etc.
- How do we get to know and capture the diversity of our learners? What are key factors of this diversity? How do these factors differ across national contexts? How do we use assessment data to get to know our learners and their needs? For example, assessment can illustrate that certain learners have learning challenges.
- Where is the evidence of our knowledge of learner diversity? How do we keep the knowledge current? Who has this knowledge and how do they acquire it? How do we determine who should have this knowledge?
- How is our knowledge of learner diversity applied to differentiate support for learner effectiveness? Where is the evidence of this differentiated support? What are the diverse sources of support to learners? Where is the evidence that it works? How do we track the impact of our support on diverse learners and how do we ensure and sustain equity of learner effectiveness in learning? What are our proxies for tracking learner effectiveness? What are the mechanisms that we use to respond to diverse learner needs? [Technical note IX.5, potential mechanisms and promising practices]
- What is the role of diverse types of learners in defining their learning needs and how they should best be met? How do we incorporate the view of learners into the education and the learning systems? Where is evidence of the impact of this incorporation?
- Have the collected data concerning learners’ characteristics, needs and perceptions been analyzed and informed the country’s policy reform and financing allocation, teacher education and professional development, teacher recruitment and deployment, curriculum development, supervision and assessment, and the development of support services?
- Is there room for improvement in exploring and forging partnership with different ministries and government agencies, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and private sector in capturing and effectively meeting learners’ diverse characteristics and needs?
Priorities for action
1. What are the key challenges and priority constraints which we need to address in order to equitably and effectively support each learner to become an effective and efficient learner throughout?
2. What are the evidence, knowledge and information gaps that prevent us from effective and equitable support for diverse needs of learners? How can we close these gaps?
3. What are the required actions to address priority constraints and the identified knowledge gaps to make our education system learner-centered? What partnerships and resources are needed to implement the actions identified?