As the public increasingly views children as persons with rights, educators are implementing more child-centered approaches. Our discussion of the rights of children fits in nicely with the topic of child-centered education. Child-centered is a widely used term that is often misunderstood, leading to heated debates and misinterpretation of instructional practices. It will be helpful to keep these guiding principles about child-centered education in mind as you work with children, parents, and colleagues:

  • All children have a right to an education that helps them grow and develop to their fullest; this basic premise is at the heart of our understanding of child-centered education. Therefore, daily interactions with children should be based on the fundamental question, Am I teaching and supporting all children in their growth and development across all domains—social, emotional, physical, linguistic, and intellectual? Such teaching is at the heart of developmentally appropriate practice.
  • Every child is a unique and special individual. Consequently, we have to teach individual children and be respectful of and account for their individual uniqueness of age, gender, culture, temperament, and learning style.
  • Children are active participants in their own education and development. This means that they should be mentally involved and physically active in learning what they need to know and do.
  • Children’s ideas, preferences, learning styles, and interests are considered in the planning for and implementation of instructional practices.

Child-centered education has been an important foundation of early childhood education since the time of Froebel. As a professional, you will want to make your teaching and practice child centered. In addition, you will want to advocate for the inherent right of every child to a child-centered education.

A reemphasis on child-centered education is occurring as society in general is becoming more interested in the whole child and efforts to address all of children’s needs, not just their academic needs. As a result, there is much more concern for encouraging children to be healthy and lead healthy lifestyles. Providing children with medical immunizations and seeing that all children are fully immunized by age two have received a lot of attention, and programs to help children be free of drugs are common in early childhood and primary programs. Concern for the welfare of children in all areas of their growth and development is evident and attests to the public’s growing awareness of their basic rights.

All great educators have believed in the basic goodness of children; the teacher is to provide the environment for this goodness to manifest itself. A central theme of Luther, Comenius, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori, and Dewey is that we must do our work as educators well, and we must really care about those whom we have been called to serve. This indeed is the essence of child-centered education.