Views of Learners
First, learners are equal and right holders entitled to quality education provision and other services that ensure survival, development, learning and wellbeing. This is supported by the international human rights instruments and agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Second, 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. This points to the need for delivery modes, learning environments and facilities, teaching and pedagogical methods, contents, materials, languages, support services, etc. which cater to learners’ diverse needs and characteristics.
Third, learners are sense-makers and (inter-)active agents, which is the understanding that arises from the now widely supported theory of social constructivism (De Corte, 2010). In this perspective, learning is considered situated, i.e. occurring in a particular context, and involves ‘participation’ or ‘social negotiation’ with teachers, peers and others. Learners are active, self-benefiting actors, and not passive beings to be acted upon or ‘empty vessels’ to be filled with predefined knowledge and information.
Forth, learners are learning from birth, or even in the womb, throughout life in informal, formal and non-formal settings – and not from the time they enter kindergarten or primary school. Neuroscience research shows that significant and critical brain development in early childhood, especially the first three years of life; and that what happens in the early years set trajectories in health, learning and behaviour that can last throughout life (Martin et al 2000; Malenka et al., 1999; Hensch, 2005; Mustard, 2002). With positive early experience, an empowering basis for successful development and learning is laid. With negative early experience, such as poverty, under-nutrition, neglect, violence and poor care, children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development are hampered, often irreparably, disadvantaging them already before school entry (Shonkoff and Philips, 2000; Mustard, 2002; Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2007). Quality early learning and care not only sets learners in a virtuous cycle whereby «learning begets learning», but leads to greater equity, higher productivity, less delinquency and remedial programmes (UNESCO, 2006; OECD, 2006, 2012).
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