UNESCO – Making Education Accessible for All Children

Educators support children’s learning through a wide range of activities. They consider each child’s unique abilities, interests and cultural ways of knowing.

Children learn through seeing, hearing, exploring and experimenting. They develop important skills like self-regulation of their emotions and positive self-belief to face challenges. They also build on their social connections and develop their independence.

Social and Emotional Development

Early social and emotional development is a vital foundation that influences learning. It teaches children how to form and maintain positive relationships; experience, manage and express emotions; and navigate the challenges of life.

Infants and young children develop social-emotional skills in the context of their close relationships with their parents and caregivers. They learn to develop attachments with others, soothe themselves when upset and follow directions. They also begin to understand what goes on in other people’s minds, and are curious about the similarities and differences between their experiences and those of others.

Teachers are important partners in promoting social-emotional development, as they guide children’s interactions with others and model healthy ways to respond to challenging situations. They work with children to understand and respect different viewpoints, and encourage kids to take risks and persist at difficult tasks. However, a recent meta-analysis found that programs for children are not consistently effective in influencing SEL outcomes (as opposed to psychopathology symptoms or EF skills). This may be due to a lack of well-defined control groups.

Cognitive Development

Despite the sometimes negative stereotypes of young children, they do possess considerable cognitive capacity. For example, a growing ability to understand and self-regulate emotions enables them to cooperate with others, solve problems and resolve conflicts (see the next section). Children’s growing sense of competence, self-esteem and confidence in learning situations also promote cognitive growth and support academic motivation.

From the very earliest stages, children begin to develop implicit theories about people, living things, objects and numbers. These theories unite disparate observations or discrete facts into explanatory systems. Children then use these systems to predict and explain events, or to act intentionally in new learning situations.

Although every subject area requires content knowledge and skills acquired through developmental learning processes, for the purposes of this report the scope is limited to two core subjects–language and literacy, and mathematics. However, the insights that are presented here regarding the ways in which children acquire these concepts can be applied to other subject areas.

Physical Development

It is critical that children be physically healthy and active in order to learn. Children who engage in regular physical activity are more focused and have better retention of information. UNESCO works on a variety of initiatives that contribute to this domain, including advocacy, partnerships and capacity building.

Physical development refers to the advancements and refinement of motor skills, or the movement of a child’s body. For example, a child who starts walking requires the control of large muscles in their legs and arms. They also need to be able to balance and support their heads.

Teachers can support this area by offering a range of physical activities. They can encourage children to run, jump, climb, roll and skip (gross motor skills) as well as use their fingers and hands to explore materials like paint, play dough, puzzles and sand (fine motor skills). Learning through touch is another important part of physical development and can be encouraged with the provision of tactile experiences.

Personal Development

Education is a right of all children, yet too many obstacles stand in the way of accessing quality learning opportunities. These include poverty, health crises, natural disasters, geographic isolation and social exclusion. World Vision is working to make education accessible for all children by providing access to safe and affordable schooling. Through child sponsorship, the Raw Hope Initiative and our Gift Catalogue you can help make this possible.

Young children’s self-perceived ability to master learning challenges develops early and exerts a lasting influence on academic performance. High parental and educator expectations also influence children’s learning outcomes.

During this stage, children focus more on intellectual independence than physical independence. They use their growing understanding of the world to make sense of what they see and experience, including developing their theory of mind. For example, when children imitate actions they see others doing, they often imitate not the exact behavior but what they believe the actor intended—the goal or rationale of their action.

UNESCO – Making Education Accessible for All Children
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