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Blog post

Embracing child-centred education: A path to learning freedom

Hengameh Karimi, Senior Researcher at Oxford Business College UK Ltd


The field of education is constantly changing, and since the Covid-19 crisis there has been a renewed emphasis on child-centred education. As a final-year PhD research student specialising in educational leadership and school improvement (focusing on six primary schools in West London), I have observed a significant change towards prioritising children’s needs and interests in the learning process. This blog post will briefly examine the importance of adopting educational freedom by using the findings of my PhD and perspectives from prominent academics including Fullan (2021, 2023), Hattie (2022), Darling-Hammond (2020) and Zhao (2021) to enrich the discussion.

Key points from my doctoral research

  1. Child-centred education in practice

Recent research conducted by Fullan (2021, 2023) and Hattie (2022) has emphasised the practical applications of child-centred education in schools globally. These methods not only enable students to assume responsibility for their learning process but also promote agency, motivating them to engage as active contributors in their education (Zhao, 2021). Educators and parents are identified as facilitators in fostering children’s independence by offering chances for decision-making and self-governance in the educational setting. Educators may provide a supportive environment by cultivating robust teacher–student relationships grounded in trust and mutual respect, enabling students to feel empowered to delve into their interests and engage in profound learning experiences.

  1. Challenges to embracing freedom in learning

Although the advantages of child-centred education are apparent, there are obstacles to its implementation, which were brought into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. School closures and distance learning have highlighted the significance of collaboration among schools, parents and the community in aiding children’s learning (Darling-Hammond, 2020). Educators must also take into account the implicit curriculum, which includes social-emotional development, critical thinking skills and values education, in addition to academic material. By integrating these elements into the learning process, educators may promote comprehensive growth and equip students for success in a dynamic world.

  1. The role of assessments and evaluation

In the age of child-centred education, assessments are essential in fostering autonomy and facilitating rapid learning and holistic growth (Fullan, 2021). On the other hand, traditional assessment techniques frequently fail to measure the full range of students’ abilities and competencies. Educators should revise assessment methodologies to match child-centred education concepts, focusing on formative assessment practices that offer feedback for learning (Hattie, 2022). There is a pressing need to establish a more inclusive and empowered assessment culture by prioritising process over outcomes and promoting reflection and self-evaluation to enhance student growth and accomplishment.

‘There is a pressing need to establish a more inclusive and empowered assessment culture by prioritising process over outcomes and promoting reflection and self-evaluation to enhance student growth and accomplishment.’

Conclusions and implications

Recent study findings, including my own PhD research, suggest a paradigm shift towards child-centred education, prompting a re-evaluation of our current approach to teaching and learning. By embracing educational freedom and personalised learning experiences, we can foster a culture of innovation, critical thinking and lifelong learning (Fullan, 2021). This shift has important consequences for the future of education, prompting educators, parents and policymakers to work together on inventive approaches that cater to the diverse needs and goals of each child.

So what?

The future of education is greatly affected by this move towards a child-centred education, which emphasises the significance of transitioning from traditional, teacher-focused teaching strategies to more student-centred ones (NAESP, 2023). It prompts us to reassess the purpose of education and concentrate on developing skills and competencies essential for success in the 21st century and beyond.

What’s next?

Moving forward, it is crucial for educators, parents and policymakers to maintain this dialogue and explore innovative approaches to create a learning environment that caters to the diverse needs and objectives of each child. This includes investing in teachers’ professional growth, revamping curricula, and aligning methods of assessment with child-centred education principles.

Questions to consider:

As we move towards a more learner-centric education system, it is critical to consider the following questions:

  • How can we provide equitable access to child-centred education for all students?
  • What role do parents and communities play in supporting and improving children’s learning experiences?
  • How can technology be used to customise learning experiences and enhance independence among students?


Darling-Hammond, L. (2020). Reimagining schools: The future of education is here. Jossey-Bass.

Fullan, M. (2021). The new meaning of educational change. Teachers College Press.

Fullan, M. (2023). Leading in a culture of change. Jossey-Bass.

Hattie, J. (2022). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

National Association of Elementary School Principals [NAESP]. (2023). Transforming education: The power of student-centred learning.

Zhao, Y. (2021). What works may hurt: Side effects in education. Teachers College Press.