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We at PYAT are making a big fuss over  “Student Centric Learning” and many parents may be wondering why. 

“Why should my child learn any differently than I did? What is this new thing they made up now?”

Student Centric Learning may sound new to many, but it definitely is not a new concept. The approaches that this learning model uses have been around, literally, for millennia. To wit, Socrates himself said that education is about “kindling a flame, not filling a cup.” 

Traditional schooling, however, is focused solely on filling cups. Information is given to students in a strict hierarchy of rules and expectations, while seated at desks, in rows.  John is the same as Mary; Peter is the same as Paula. They are expected to do the same things in the exact same way. They repeat the information back to the teacher to get the passing grade. Lesson upon lesson, year after year, the cups runneth over– and leaketh right out the door.

According to recent studies, only 50% of students know how to “play the game” of school. The rest just can’t.


Because not everyone can be a monk. 

Medieval monks gave us many things- cheese, brandy and traditional schooling methods. The monastery was the center of learning in the middle ages and countless young men received an education within their walls. Rows and rows of students at desks copied out book upon the book in silence. Once schools were opened to the wider public, they copied the monks’ educational models. Students have continued to copy out things from books, in silence, ever since.

Learning by the motto repetitio est mater studiorum, however, does not foster true understanding or comprehension. The traditional schooling methods and techniques do not develop key skills such as critical thinking, curiosity and confidence.  However, many schools have moved away from the “traditional” approach to the student-centered approach for an even more practical reason.

They want children to retain what they learn. 

There is a very practical and physiological reason why a student-centered approach is foundationally better for children’s education. Student-centered learning is about engaging and empowering students. It encourages their creativity and lets them discover the right answer, not copy it from a book. It is interactive and encourages them to explore their interests. It moves learning out of the classroom.

Simply put, it is more fun.

Fun, as it turns out, is critically important for knowledge retention in children. 

Children’s brains have evolved to understand emotions from birth, but not logic. Children are more emotive than adults because their brains are immediately geared towards emotional understanding, while their logic develops over time. This means that children do not do their school lessons because it will be “good for them” in the future. They do their school lessons for two reasons: a) because they wish to avoid negative emotions (eg. an upset parent, self-depreciation for a bad mark), or b) because they enjoyed the process.

Emotional response to the learning process is critically important for retention. If children enjoy the process, they internalize it and make it part of their thinking patterns. They use the knowledge over and over. They pass it on to others. It becomes a critical part of who they are and how they respond to the world. If they hated the process, there is no guarantee that they will internalize or even remember the information. In fact,  if they hated the process of receiving the information, they may purposely reject and forget the information after it is no longer required in the classroom.

Just stop and think how important this is if your child attends a Ukrainian School on Saturdays.

Do you still want the traditional way?

Intelligent educators see that the traditional methods are merely familiar and not ideal for students.  Very intelligent educators recognize the even older methods of teaching were, in fact, very student centred in the first place.
Although it may not feel that way, student-centered learning is far from new. Socrates lived a millennium before the monks and their desks. He may not have called it “student-centered learning” but he used many of its foundational concepts. He used them simply because they worked. He wanted his students to think and to engage in the process of discovery; so he expected his students to ask deeper and deeper (and deeper) questions. He took them into the agora, giving them the opportunity to learn from people in the streets. He piqued their curiosity with open questions and made them think critically for the answer. In this way, he and his students tested the limits of “Knowledge” in ancient Greece and expanded them. His methods were not accepted by everyone during his lifetime, but he enlightened the entire world with his lines of inquiry. We don’t remember all those who were displeased with him, but we remember him, his students, and the way they influenced our thinking even to this today. 

Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great – who conquered the known world.

This student-centered approach is not new, strange or ineffective.  It is fun, engaging and, at PYAT, gets your child involved with Ukrainian language and heritage in new ways.

We kindle flames so that students can fill their own cups so that they can toast to the long life of the Ukrainian language and culture for the rest of their lives. 

Student-centered learning is based on 4 key concepts:

1. Learning is personal – Teachers understand the student’s learning needs and see them as individuals not a class unit. They develop a foundation of mutual trust where learning new things is safe for the student and where they can act as a facilitator. 

2. Learning is about comprehension and depth- Teachers personalize learning based on the strengths and interests of the student so that the student can delve deeper into the material to understand it better.

3. Learning never stops – Students have interesting activities as homework so that they may discover new things while away from the classroom. 

4. Learning is Student-Driven – Students are actively asked for their ideas in the learning process. Lesson plans are dynamic to give students the agency to choose where to explore next.