Advice Column, Early Learning, Education, Recently


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Choosing the right learning environment for one’s young child is essential as it has the potential to play a large role in the success of the child’s learning experience throughout the rest of their life, an education expert says.

“A child’s first encounter with learning in a formal environment sets in motion the way in which they will view learning, how they foresee their role in society and the contributions they will make locally and globally later in life,” says Lynda Eagle, Academic Advisor: Early Years at ADvTECH, Africa’s largest private education provider.

However the process of choosing the learning environment that will best suit a child’s personality and needs is complicated by the numerous options available to parents and guardians, who may feel overwhelmed and even confused about how to determine what is and isn’t right for their child’s journey ahead.

To make this important call, Eagle says there are a number of factors to take into consideration, which provide a helpful guide for this important decision.

“The first step is identifying the things that you value as a family, your hopes, and expectations and what you are wanting to get out of an education system for your child. While we know and celebrate the importance of academic achievements, we often forget that the child is both capable and competent and comes with unique qualities and talents,” she says.

“It must also be taken into account that young children are often in charge of their own learning – meaning that as much as we try to mold and drive them, ultimately, they will follow their own interests and curiosities.  By meeting these unique needs, interests and talents and recognising that success comes in many forms, we have a better chance of helping the child reach their full potential and ensure that they in their own unique way contribute positively to their community in the future.”

Eagle points out that it is generally accepted that the aim of a school is the development of academic excellence for the students in their care. 

“However, academic excellence requires academic confidence if a student is going to reach their full potential. This requires that the school not only provide a safe and enriched learning environment, but that the student’s wellbeing is nurtured and protected from the very beginning. Where the child feels safe, they will be open to learning.”

When looking for a school, parents need to be open to possibilities and feel confident that the learning environment will support learning in a holistic way. 

“It is important to listen carefully to the messages being delivered by the school, align their views and expectations to that offered by the school, and more importantly, research and ask questions, listening to not only what the school is saying but also to what they are not saying.”

Eagle advises parents and guardians to visit schools in person so that they can gain information firsthand, make comparisons, investigate, interrogate, and explore the integrity of the learning environment, the approaches to teaching and learning, the schools’ views on discipline and assessment, as well as how they view the child. 

“The aesthetic qualities of a school are also important as they provide the initial feel and atmosphere. This will influence how comfortable the child will feel as well as what type of learning will take place in that environment. Does it feel inviting, and does it provide the student the opportunity to explore and discover, through intentional play opportunities and carefully designed learning spaces?”

An ergonomically designed learning environment is not something that parents may be aware of or focus on – but ensuring that the furnishings are the right size and flexible, that the learning spaces are accessible and encourage and support play, that equipment is easily accessible, and that there is sufficient natural light and air flow, all influence the quality of the learning experience for the child, says Eagle.

“Learning in the early years is often perceived as not being as important as the learning that takes place in the older years. However this is a misconception as the early years lay the foundation for all future learning,” says Eagle.

“It is therefore non-negotiable that the teachers are fully qualified, that the ratio of competent and responsible adults to students is in place, that the integrity of the curriculum is not compromised but rather enhanced, that the focus is placed on future-focused teaching and learning techniques and strategies, and that all this takes place in a nurturing and responsive setting.”

The learning experience is further enhanced using an inquiry-based approach, utilising global competencies to strengthen the learning experiences, focusing on relevant real-world concepts, building transferable knowledge and skills, and supporting student agency – these all go a long way in supporting a child on their personal learning journeys and should be considered when assessing a school.

“When choosing a school that best fits your and your child’s needs, being aware of global trends, fully investigating the possibilities and options available, and holding schools accountable, all lead to a better-quality experience for one’s child in the early years, while building a foundation of a love of learning for future years.”

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