From Year-class System to Child-oriented Education


The current school system that takes the fixed link of subject matter to age as starting point has had its best time. There are a number of important disadvantages, particularly in the pedagogical field. The current state of technology can now support other forms of organization. This offers opportunities for child-oriented education where pedagogical objectives are central.


The first part of this article series is called ” The year of learning classes is bankrupt “. This second part describes how you can shape child-oriented education. What is contemporary and child-oriented education and what goals you can work for? What resources can be used to achieve those goals? And how can you organize that education? The third part describes a change process: Child-oriented education in a learning school.

Child-oriented Education

Mental images

It is important to remember that a large part of the current educational generation has grown up with mental images of comparison and assessment. We think in terms of ‘disadvantaged pupils’ and ‘development advantage’.

A transition from the year of learning curriculum to more child-oriented education is therefore primarily aimed at changing the way of looking at development and learning. When new forms of work and organizational models are introduced without that change of thinking, the inner drive and the necessary foundation are missing.

In concrete terms: as long as you still think as a teacher in terms of ‘weak pupils’, ‘lowest performing children’ or ‘the top of the group’, the curriculum year system is still a mental model in your head. Another organizational model in which the qualities of each child are central is then used as a ‘way of doing things’ and the danger of failure occurs.

“Teachers have grown up with mental images of comparing and assessing”

Ten building blocks of child-oriented education

Child-oriented education can take shape in various ways. The common thing is that the development of the possibilities of all pupils is the starting point. Based on the child-oriented principles, each school builds up its own education. This article describes ten building blocks of child-oriented education.

1. Each child is unique

Take the qualities and development needs of the child as a starting point for the organization of education. Each child is unique and therefore also needs a unique, unique development route. If the pupils acknowledge their individuality and specific qualities, they will develop more harmoniously than when there are all kinds of frustrations in that area.

2. Focus on personal development

First focus on the personal development of the children. Make sure they can develop into autonomous and responsible persons. They can then take their place in society and thereby take the responsibility that comes their way. 1  In this person development the development of a moral compass plays a central role. Life is choosing and choices are made with your moral compass.
The personal development strongly depends on the extent to which the environment makes it possible to be responsible. As a teacher, you play an important role in this with your views and this role can not be replaced by a computer. The things that really matter in education are of all times and can not be replaced by computers or other technical means. 2

“Children must be able to develop into autonomous and responsible people.”

3. Stimulate the metacognitive skills

Stimulate the development of metacognitive skills. These skills relate to evaluating one’s own performance and consciously dealing with social situations. The 21st-century skills 3  actually imply the metacognitive skills or, if you like, the executive skills 4 . In any case, it is all about paying attention to goals in terms of skills and personality in addition to cognitive goals. People are social beings and the importance of working together and functioning in relationships with others is of all times.

21st-century skills and pedagogy

In fact, the current attention for 21st-century skills calls for more pedagogy in education 5 . That fits nicely with the movement against the one-sided focus on hard measurable results. It is also in line with the call for more ‘bildung’ in education and the attention that Gert Biesta asks for ‘personal development’. 6

“The focus on 21st-century skills is a call for more pedagogy in education.”

4. Support the competence experience

Make sure that children feel competent in acquiring knowledge, attitude and skills. This can be done through the subtle game of supporting and challenging, focusing on the basic pedagogical needs relationship, competence and autonomy. Competence also refers to connecting with the already acquired competences and that includes the living environment, the experiences and the prior knowledge of the students. That also touches on pride and self-confidence.

When a child is always compared with others who are faster and better, the competence experience is blocked. Appreciate each child according to their own possibilities and not to those of another or of an ‘average child’. Even if you agree on the approach to the possibilities of the child, the blocking stigma is clear to both the child and the bystanders. And that gnaws at the competence experience of the child in question.

Assessing a pupil on his / her own learning process is called formative evaluation, focused on the process and on the following learning steps. 7  This is in contrast to summative evaluation, which is standardized and hence differentiates from it.

5. Make pupils owner of their own learning process

Make sure that the pupils own their own learning process. Of course that is easier said than done. But the well-being and involvement of the pupils is increasing by leaps and bounds. Make learning visible by making the learning steps transparent and, together with the students, to keep track of the progress they are making. Visibly learning students are happy students!

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