chapter  12
10 Pages


It is a fundamental assumption of child-centred educationists that learning should have meaning for the child. Related terms like 'relevance', 'importance', 'significance' recur in the literature of this tradition and, especially, in the conversation of educationists. The point of educational activity is to enable the child to grasp the meaning of what he is attempting to learn. Unless the child understands what he learns, it remains a meaningless formula, a collection of inert ideas, a rote skill having no application outside the classroom situation in which it was learned. This is to say that education should be child-centred in that the learner comes to possess what he knows. His learning becomes a disposition to behave in a certain kind of way. In Polanyi's sense of the term, he has personal knowledge.1 And having learning as a personal possession entails that the learner must know how to do something with his knowledge, though its practical value need not be merely instrumental in the sense of having social or economic utility (see pp. 122-6). The utilization of knowledge will often occur in subsequent learning situations within the school itself, and the competences acquired by the child will often be the skilled use of concepts, facts and principles as well as the mastery of motor skills. Knowing how to use concepts and apply principles in activities which are primarily theoretical is of no less importance than acquiring skill in practical affairs. But whether our concern is with learning how to perform motor, diagnostic or theoretical skills, the tacit element at the heart of all skills requires that the learner should practise them for himself. He cannot enter into possession of a skill merely by being told what to do. For this reason, we concluded that learning by doing is essential to the acquisition

of knowledge as a personal possession2 (see pp. 151-3).