The aims of education
Educational activities have three general kinds of aim:
- Various kinds of social ends (economic growth, economic strategy)
- Academic ends (e.g. to understand how cells multiply)
- The development of the Individual
The living of our lives has a primary intrinsic value. Accordingly, human-centred education asserts that the development of the individual as a whole is paramount and has priority over other aims. Holistic development includes a persons' emotions and motivation, and is not simply a way to perform better academically, so cognitive development will be contextualised as being integral with overall growth in terms of well-being and flourishing.
The character of educational processes
If we normally think that only in achieving the goals of our activities do we realise the value of our activities, then we relinquish the intrinsic value of our actions to those instrumentalist values embodied in systems of 'instrumental rationality' or means-ends thinking'. This conception has the implication that our goal-directed actions are merely of instrumental value in getting to our goals, in effect that our activity must be efficiently directed only to these goals or be considered lost or wasted time. It cannot recognize that learning as an activity is itself of intrinsic value as an important part of one's lived experience and takes place during a significant period of development of the individual.
Human-Centred approaches to educational processes take adolescent lived experience into account in designing spaces and providing an enjoyable culture of learning. Young people are not empty vessels to be filled with stuff that would make them useful in some future role with specific goals. Structures and processes can encourage learners to take ownership of their personal development and to recognize and navigate themselves through the curriculum, community and culture of a school.
The nature of learning
Learning to 'be', is acknowledged as part of the process along with learning by acquisition of knowledge and skills. To this extent practice concerns itself with the development of personal qualities and dispositions such as curiosity, caring for others and inner integrity. Without the appropriate virtues or qualities, knowledge and skills do not stand by themselves; they are driven and informed by developing the sense of knowing and doing the right things in the right way. The kinds of qualities or virtues we need in academic, vocational, business and professional endeavours often overlap with those we need for everyday life. In explicitly nurturing qualities and virtues geared towards wholeness, well-being and flourishing, (though these may not be directly tested or measurable in themselves), human-centred educational processes may seek to, or include:
- Curiousity, Inquisitiveness, Reflexivity, Motivation, Aptitude, Open-mindedness
- Caring about connecting well with others, understanding other people, applying ethical considerations to decisions and action.
- Caring for things of value beyond oneself; social justice, truth, beauty, the earth, the world.
- Caring about thinking independently, creatively, critically, systematically. Applying sound reasoning. Using language with sensibility and care in thinking and communicating.
- Self-understanding, self-knowledge, insightfulness, self-respect, how to handle negative feelings, how to live well.
Virtues and qualities such as these may vary in importance or emphasis for any given individual, culture, society or area of learning. This is why Human-Centred Education is fundamentally about the capacity of the education process and setting to adapt itself to the specific needs of the individual.
The needs of students
The handbook addresses itself to young people in secondary education. Adolescents have to deal formatively with selfhood, autonomy, peer relations, and with radical physical psychological emotional and social change. A Human-Centred Education approach is specified to help them to meet their challenges and provide opportunities for young people to flourish.