When Does Learning Begin?
When did you learn to read? How about learning to tell time? How old were you when you learned your multiplication facts? We measure learning in stages and many consider learning to begin when formal education does. In fact, learning begins much sooner.
In a recent study, researchers discovered that significant language learning occurs 10 weeks before birth. We have know for a long time that babies in utero are experiencing all that is around them, however they are also acquiring language skills that will fuel their development after birth.
The four arts of language–listening, speaking, reading, writing–are the building blocks of education. The language arts are what allow us to study all the other disciplines and synthesize what we have learned. They are also what fuels collaboration and the ability to problem solve.
Early learning happens rapidly and without formal instruction. Children are soaking up all that is around them. Experiences, and the lack there of, greatly shape not only the amount of learning but the potential for learning in the future. Likewise, we cannot wait for a classroom to educate our children. Research has shown that the most significant indicator of future learning, is a child’s first five years. This is when the hardware of the brain is built and connects laid. In addition, the child’s approach to learning and others is solidified.
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that the gap in achievement existed from the beginning of kindergarten.
“Children’s brains and children’s attitudes are formed in the first five years of life, and children’s opportunity to learn is affected by the homes in which they grow, the communities in which they grow, their respect for learning, their respect for teachers,” says Ravitch. The makings of the achievement gap are already there on the first day of school, and it’s correlated with “different ethnic backgrounds, where poverty and affluence matter a great deal.” (source)
The conclusion, learning begins at home and within those first moments of life. Education is not just a system or a progression through grade levels, it is the development of attitudes, knowledge, and brain connections that lead to a deeper understanding of the world, ability to evaluate data, and the desire to know more.
Education for all is not just an economic boon, it is an opportunity for a brighter future for all. Through an appreciation for lifelong learning and access to educational resources and opportunities, the next generation will have the groundwork laid for their higher achievement.
Just as education does not begin in school, it does not end there either. This is why events like Global Learn Day are so vital to the improvement of every citizen of the world. By lifting one, we lift them all. We must each choose to never stop learning and pledge to bring the fortuity of educational enrichment to those who still lack this basic need.
As One Planet, One People, we have the opportunity and obligation to keep the tide of innovation going but never lose sight of the small steps that have huge impacts. Exposing babies, still in the womb, to quality language that is free from violence, stress, and excessive volume. By supporting families, we are educating the future.
For as Diane Ravich points out, “There is a kind of a wiser understanding of how children grow and develop and learn that recognizes that children’s first educator is their family, and that nurturance really matters.”
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