This year, the GHFP was invited by Beijing Normal University to teach a credit course on HCE. Dr Scherto Gill and Professor Kenneth Gergen, a fellow of the GHFP, provided the lectures together.

Participants are masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students. The lectures focused on the theories and practices of Human-Centred Education. The course concluded with a peer-evaluation day when students reflected on their own learning and discussed how they might take some of the ideas to their own research and work. A high note was reached when one of the students burst into tears about her awakening to this humanising view of students and the potential such human-centred approach might have in transforming lives of children and the society.

On 16th October, 52 school principals and their key members of staff travelled from different corners of the country to attend a one-day lecture on HCE provided by both Dr Gill and Prof Gergen. This lecture was likewise appreciated by the Principals, but they felt this was only a beginning. Schools in China are eager to learn how to integrate HCE practices in classrooms.

For a school to become a learning community, it requires processes whereby leaders, staff members, students, parents and others in the community integrate and live out human-centred values and imbibe a human-centred culture. Redesigning the school involves a systemic approach to transformation in five core areas:

  1. Uniting all stakeholders around a common vision and a shared set of values. The more a school and its members are clear and aware of its vision and values, the more likely they will live and embody the values of care and respect, the more such values become the very fabric of the community.
  2. Adopting a set of HCE policies, agreed upon by the community as a whole, which will guide practice in the school. These policies must be aligned with the main aim of education as the holistic development of the students as whole persons.
  3. Introducing some elements (curriculum areas) of the HCE curriculum, in accordance with the school’s conditions and situation. These should be introduced in conjunction with HCE pedagogy and evaluative practices.
  4. Nurturing a HCE culture, in which there is no fear (e.g. of failure, of authority, of teachers, of punishment, of speaking one’s mind). This is a starting point for the creation of a culture of caring, respect and mutuality.
  5. Developing institutional processes to train and support teachers. In doing so, teachers will begin to relish newly defined activities within the HCE curriculum and welcome new opportunities for personal and professional learning. This involves shifting teachers’ mindset from teaching as instructing and delivering, towards teaching as dialogue, collaboration, co-creation and facilitation.

For support with integrating an HCE approach in your school, including teacher training and professional development, please do contact us.

A learning community:

(1) Is integrated in the local community. Ideally, a human-centred learning community is within walking distance of local businesses, community centres, residential areas and public services (e.g. hospitals, police stations). This enables young people to more easily make links with the local community, including through work experience and visits, and raise the profile of the school in the community by its proximity.

(2) Has flexible teaching spaces. The traditional classroom setting with rows of tables and chairs has long been challenged. From a human-centred perspective, the diversity of curriculum activities demands flexibility of space. Such flexibility might allow horseshoe-shaped classrooms, or the group to sit in a circle, both of which enable the class to meet face-to-face. A human centred teacher is not on the centre of the stage; she facilitates and guides, but she is also part of the group.

(3) Has large indoor spaces with natural light. These spaces are particularly valuable for Group Emotional Exploration Time. Young people need spaces where they can feel free to make noise and where they can be physically more distant from one another. Too often classrooms feel crowded and controlled. Large spaces where students feel less constrained are likely to provide opportunities for more creativity and emotional development.

(4) Provides students access to green outdoor spaces. These have similar benefits to large indoor spaces but with the advantages of fresh air and no walls! Inspiring green outdoor spaces can also offer students an alternative working environment when they do not wish to study indoors, as well as opening opportunities for developing gardening and other outdoor skills, for instance, during Independent Project Time.

(5) Offers students the opportunities for organised sports. The school should allow students uncomplicated access to a sufficient range of sport-specific apparatus. eg. a sports centre or sports ground.

(6) Has a large and fully stocked library. The school’s library facilities need to be extensive due to the independent nature of much of the study in a human-centred school. Students need access to a wide range of materials. Ideally the library has sufficient comfortable study space close to the books where students can carry out independent study. Where possible there should be a digital library and a audio/visual library, as well as online and physical records of students’ writings, arts and performances.

(7) Offers access to technology and specialist facilities. A human-centred school should have sufficient technological resources (computers, Internet-based educational resources, etc.) to enable students to access learning materials to carry out their own research, as well as supporting technology-based learning styles. Students would ideally also have access to specialist facilities and technology such as darkrooms, cameras, laboratories, design technology apparatus and art supplies.

(8) Provides quiet spaces for solitary time. These are spaces where young people and adults are able to spend time alone, to reflect, think or simply to clear their minds. Giving members of the school community the possibility of removing themselves from the often intense social and academic environment and seeking their own company is a way of respecting them. Time spent alone can be powerful in enabling young people to be more thoughtful and less stressed, and it can help them connect with the spiritual and with nature. Both outdoor and inside spaces would make it possible for students and staff to seek solitude at any time.