Top 10 Trends In Primary School Education
Learning skills in the 21st century focus on fostering dispositions to equip children with the tools for success in rapidly changing times. More than half the children entering primary school today will work in jobs that do not yet exist.
The focus is less on knowledge and memorisation, and more on character development including creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, flexibility and resilience. Children’s competencies rather than learning outcomes are prioritised.
Anxiety and stress are on the rise among children. The pressure on them to achieve high levels of academic success is negatively affecting their well-being. In schools, the focus once again is on whole child development. The latest research in brain development shows that social-emotional learning is inextricably linked with academic learning.
Creating school environments that balance social-emotional development, growth mindsets and academic skills prepares students more successfully for school and life. On the next spread are the top 10 trends that are helping to improve primary learning.
1/10 Play: The key to healthy development
Primary education continues to emphasise the importance of play-based learning as an essential and effective teaching approach. During play the child is problem-solving, creating new things, working with others and building an understanding of the world. Research shows learning through play enhances students’ academic, social-emotional and learning outcomes.
In addition, play supports positive learning attitudes including imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm and persistence. These attitudes are harder to develop through traditional, rote learning approaches. Play-based learning supports the development of competent learners, able to work with others, face challenges and create solutions.
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2/10 Working with others
Collaboration breeds deeper learning and more valuable learning experiences. There is a greater emphasis on collaboration in the working world—from hackathons to open invitations to design new solutions for global challenges. Employers are looking for candidates with good collaboration skills.
Primary school students are taught how to develop effective communication, task management and problem-solving skills. Through group work students learn to generate ideas and clarify their thoughts, exposing them to different perceptions, which will help deepen their own understanding. Collaboration is a cornerstone of education.
3/10 Grit is an important predictor of success
It is essential children learn to deal with challenges; their ability to thrive arises from their resilience skills. Primary students are encouraged to perceive mistakes as learning opportunities and taught strategies to keep trying.
Resilience skills include being optimistic, problem-solving and having an effective coping style and positive selfimage. Perfection is not the goal; the focus is on the effort and developing the attitude of perseverance. Grit combats anxiety and leads to well-being and success.
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4/10 Connect with nature
Sustainability and environmental awareness are dominating our world and education system. Yet surprisingly, research suggests the opportunity for children to engage in nature is diminishing, as they spend increasing amounts of time indoors or at activities. “Green” education is based on wonder, exploration and creating a positive connection with nature. A sense of joy should permeate these experiences.
The aim is to develop children’s understanding, love and care for the natural world, which will hopefully become the foundation for a proactive, positive “green” attitude, essential for countering today’s environmental issues.
5/10 Kids need to believe in something
Children are born with an innate capacity for spirituality but it takes time and effort to develop. A new body of science demonstrates that any sort of spirituality becomes a source of health, while a lack of spirituality can be a source of suffering. Spirituality includes having religion or having a personal relationship with nature or a higher power.
Research conducted by psychologist Dr Lisa Miller identified that when children develop a “spiritual self,” they have greater resilience, optimism and a sense of inner worth. In contrast, when children’s worth is based on success, they develop a “performance self,” and happiness is based on ability and accomplishment.
Religious education in schools is being brought up to date and often includes a broad range of views. Children need to learn to explore their own spiritual identity, as well as learn about the beliefs and practices of others. In a global world, understanding religious and cultural beliefs is essential for a cohesive and compassionate society.
Mindfulness is taking a prominent role in today’s education system and has quickly become a mainstream phenomenon. Mindfulness trains the mind to focus on the present moment, without judging. It can be practised as “quiet time”—when students focus on a single subject to bring the mind towards stillness and clarity.
One reason it is popular in schools is because it is simple to teach and learn, and can be practised anywhere, at any time. By integrating mindfulness into the school day, the children are learning lifelong skills that support their current and future health.
See also: Why Hong Kong International Schools Are Embracing Mindfulness
7/10 Personalised learning
Personalised learning is one of the most talked about strategies in education today. It aims to tailor each student’s instruction to their preferences and interests, and at a pace appropriate to their needs.
The students take more ownership of their learning, while working collaboratively with teachers and others. The benefits include students being actively involved in their learning choices, highly engaged and motivated to learn.
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Because we are individuals, learning and teaching should entail some form of flexibility within the realm of standardisation. Personalised learning puts children at the heart of education.
8/10 Use technology wisely
Today’s students are digital natives. They have grown up with technology and it is woven into their lives. Schools and classrooms have opted to become digital, including devices and internet access into the classroom. Primary education promotes the use of technology with intentionality and specific time limits on devices, and guides student safety online.
Technology is used to extend, capture, reflect and share students’ learning. When used appropriately, it promotes student engagement, fosters enthusiasm and transforms the learning experience. It supports learning in a meaningful way, within well-defined parameters.
9/10 Stop the clutter
Gone are the days of busy classroom walls crammed full of laminated displays and commercially made educational posters. The aesthetics of learning environments matter and highly decorated classrooms are more of a distraction than an aid to learning. Too much visual stimulation, bright colours and a busy room layout can negatively impact students’ well-being and learning.
“Less is more” is the principle guiding classroom design. Displays are minimised to target children’s learning and school values, and also include displays that were created by the students. In addition, natural light and good air quality are correlated with high learning outcomes. Plus, flexible classrooms with a range of seating options and varied learning spaces improve attention and learning styles. Quality classroom environments promote healthy learning.
10/10 Metacognition: Thinking about thinking
For optimal learning, children need to have awareness of their thinking processes, also known as metacognition. Primary school children are being encouraged to understand, regulate and reflect on their thinking. Activities include teaching the students to plan, monitor and evaluate a task. Then learners begin to determine their strengths and weaknesses and identify their own learning goals.
Through these types of reflections, students are encouraged to start taking responsibility for their learning. This teaching approach improves children’s learning and thinking.
Amanda Holroyd is a primary school teacher based in Hong Kong.
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