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Common Barriers to Education

Common Barriers to Education

6 September, 2016

The ability of a student to learn in the classroom isn’t simply a question of motivation. Research suggests that almost 1 in 5 pupils in the UK leave school before taking their A-levels – a relatively high number compared with the rest of Europe.

The following are the Common Barriers to Education

  1. Motivation or “availability to learn”

A student’s availability to learn depends largely on their motivation. Our personal desire to achieve results and improve our knowledge, regardless of the material being studied, is one of the most important factors in our ability to learn.

Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of school needs, we see that self-actualization comes top of the list in the vital ‘needs’ that we require to learn. A lack of motivation is a major barrier to student’s learning and without the desire to achieve, students often end up doing the bare minimum amount of work in the classroom, enough to get by but not enough to really improve their learning. A lack of motivation to study typically results in students going through the motions of learning and not retaining information.

  1. Social and cultural barriers

A child’s ability to interact socially with their peers has an important impact on how they progress in the classroom. The very act of learning in a classroom environment involves interacting with other students, talking through problems and finding solutions.

Why interaction is important

Discussing lessons with other students helps pupils realize their own strengths and weaknesses and enables them to improve their knowledge gaps, learning directly from their classmates.

School students who have poor social skills often fall behind in their learning as they aren’t able to communicate as effectively as others. Of course, not all types of learning require students to be social, but in the early years in particular, the ability to listen, respond and empathize with other people are all important learning skills.

How environment can shape social skills

As humans, we are greatly affected by the people around us and during our first 5 years, our principal influencers are our parents or guardians. The beliefs that our parents hold and the cultures that they embrace can heavily influence how we learn as students. For example, if a student has grown up in a household where mathematical subjects are given more weight that languages, that student may have a cultural barrier when it comes to learning subjects like English.

  1. Emotional factors that affect learning

The encouragement that we receive from our teachers, parents and friends plays an important role in our emotional learning. If a student adopts a mindset of ‘always trying their best’ and learning from past failures, they’ll generally have a positive outlook on their ability to learn. On the other hand, if a student’s internal voice is always telling them that they’re not good enough or that there’s no point in even trying, they’re more likely to underachieve in school.

A student’s emotional wellbeing majorly impacts their ability to do well at school. Students who lack confidence and are afraid to take educated guesses could have emotional issues that are affecting their learning. There can be a number of emotional factors at play in a student’s learning including fear of embarrassment, doubt and inadequacy, all of which can lead to self-sabotaging emotional states.

Generally speaking, negative emotions can be reduced by setting expectations, focusing on the positives and setting goals for the future.

  1. Personal issues that can affect learning
    On an individual level, students often have personal problems that affect their learning. For example, students with diagnosed learning difficulties like autism or Asperger’s syndrome will find certain elements of learning more challenging than others. Similarly, students with learning impairments like dyslexia may find that their personal barriers hinder their progress at times.

On a practical level, factors such as transport, location, language and access to resources can all present blocks to learning for some students. For example, school pupils who don’t speak English as their first language may find following instructions more difficult than native English speakers. Or students who live in remote locations may find that a lack of access to resources like the internet plays a big part in their ability to learn.

What we can do?

Having an awareness of some of these learning roadblocks can help teachers, careers advisors and parents understand the individual needs of students or children.

Learning barriers affect students differently and there’s no ‘right’ way to reduce them. Generally speaking, a collective effort form friends, family and teachers in supporting students to overcome any obstacles is a good starting point.