Barriers to learning and development…

8 August 2016

Barriers can be located within the learner, within the centre of learning, within the education system and within the broader social, economic and political context. These barriers manifest themselves in different ways and only become obvious when learning breakdown occurs, when learners ‘drop out’ of the system or when the excluded become visible. Sometimes it is possible to identify permanent barriers in the learner or the system which can be addressed through enabling mechanisms and processes.

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However, barriers may also arise during the learning process and are seen as transitory in nature. These may require different interventions or strategies to prevent them from causing learning breakdown or excluding learners from the system. The key to preventing barriers from occurring is the effective monitoring and meeting of the different needs among the learner population and within the system as a whole.

If the education system is to promote effective learning and prevent learning breakdown, it is imperative that mechanisms are structured into the system to break down existing barriers. Such mechanisms must develop the capacity of the system to overcome barriers which may arise, prevent barriers from occurring and promote the development of an effective learning and teaching environment. Central to the development of such capacity is the ability to identify and understand the nature of the barriers which cause learning breakdown and lead to exclusion.

Over and above this, however, such capacity requires a commitment to using and learning from practices and processes which exist within the system itself and which have been used or can be used to break down barriers and meet the range of needs which are present. With these consideration in mind the White Paper on Inclusive Education sees it as critical to identify and analyse the barriers to learning in the South Africa education system, but also to identify those mechanisms already in the system and those which need to be developed which will enable diversity to be accommodated in an integrated system of education.

Such mechanisms will include: initiative aimed at providing for learners who have been excluded from the system by both the state and non-governmental organisations; innovative practices for recognising and accommodating diversity; activities that advocate against discrimination and challenge attitudes; processes towards the involvement of learners, parents, educators and community members in the governance of centres of learning; training programmes which equip educators to deal with diverse needs; curriculum restructuring; organisation and development of teaching and learning environments; as well as economic and political transformation supported by enabling and protective legislation and policy.

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