The main purpose to any education system is to provide equitable and quality education for students so that they will be able to reach their full potential and eventually be able to positively contribute to and participate in society throughout their lives.
Unfortunately, with governmental policies and conflicting ideas among school boards on how this is best achieved not everyone has the same experiences or rights to a positive educational experience. The barriers I have chosen to discuss in this essay are anxiety within schools, socio-economic factors and cultural ideas as barriers to learning.Creating a safe place in which children as learners can grow and thrive should be a primary concern for teachers (Dusenbury, 2012). We however are just a small influence into factors that may help or hinder a student’s ability to learn.
For a student to be available for learning, basic needs need to be met – in both school and at home (Kline, n.d.). Maslow’s Hierarchy of School Needs has identified and highlighted the core pieces that need to be in place for students to be available to learn (and to learn at elevated levels, reach their potential, and increase their potential) (Burleson & Thoron, 2013). These theories are broken down into five main points and listed in importance; physiological, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualisation (Burleson & Thoron, 2013).
Having an awareness of these five needs for positive learning gives us a good insight into how and why barriers to learning may come about. Anxiety is one of the fastest growing mental health issues within New Zealand and its schools. It can also have one of the biggest effects on a child’s learning (Sulkowski, Joyce, ; Storch, 2012). Anxiety can be a normal part of life and help you achieve well in certain situations (The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation, 2016). However, fears and worries about school, home life, and what could happen in the future are all fears that can eventuate into serious anxiety and prove detrimental if left unattended (Mental Health Foundation, 2018).
Within the New Zealand school setting we have seen children’s mental well-being develop as a significant urgency for education, with increasing numbers of children experiencing family breakdown, anxiety, and depression to name a few (Education Central, 2017). The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project (YMHP) was initiated in 2012 in the hope that it would provide early intervention and prevention for youth with or at risk of mental health conditions (Ministry of Health, 2015). The main characteristics of this project were to encourage schools to implement PB4L (Positive Behaviour for Learning) as a method to boost resilience and lessen problems considered to be within the control of the school. However, for more significant issues funding for the Social Workers in Schools (SWiS) was only available in targeted low decile primary and intermediate schools (decile 1–5) (Ministry of Health, 2015). This project did see a positive show in statistics but more importantly it highlighted the full extent of the mental health issues that the youth of today face.Currently a new mental health package, released on 14 August 2017, has been initiated and aims to deliver on promises to alleviate some of the mental health issues in all schools not just secondary (Ministry of Education, 2017).
The package promises to change the current approach of mental health and begin to focus more on early intervention and building the resilience of school-aged children and young people. If the initiative is achieved it will in the short term provide fast and easy access for students who feel varying degrees of anxiety at a much faster rate than previously done before. For the long term it will identify issues when they first begin at primary schools and will stop them reaching crisis level when the child reaches intermediate or high school. Bought in early enough the resilience and coping strategies learnt by these children at primary level will set them up positively for many of their future endeavours and in turn will be taught and passed onto their younger generation years to come. By having adequate counselling services available within the schools, it will allow teachers to directly refer students as quite often we are the first point of call when noticing a change in children’s behaviour.
It will also allow more time spent teaching as hopefully with children being aware of their emotions and reactions to certain stimulus it will have a positive impact on child behaviour within the classroom.Socio-economic barriers to learning is full of new problems and issues that are continually arising and as teachers, we need to be prepared to adapt to any problems or differences that come our way.