Why More Schools in Africa Should Implement Universal Design for Learning

As Kenyan, who has lived in Tanzania, schooled in Ghana, worked in Mauritius, and traveled six other African Countries, I one day hope to play a role in changing the rigid Education system on the continent (Big Dream I know, but I am only reaching for the stars).

I recently started working at this super cool international school in Ghana, and two days ago, I was exposed to this new way of learning- ‘Universal Design for Learning’ Ever heard of it? Please read on it — Its brilliant! The presentation was only an hour long but I was so so intrigued by the concept that I read about it all through the day.

In summary, Universal Design for Learning is a way of learning that addresses a highly diverse learning environment, it is a teaching approach that offers more than one way for different students to assess the same material, thus, the goal of this type of learning is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning and give all students equal opportunities to succeed. Universal Design for Learning doesn’t specifically target kids with learning and attention issues. It is about building in flexibility that can be adjusted for every student’s strengths and needs (for example those who have difficulty with math, those who cannot study with noise, those with hearing barriers, those who are disabled in some way, or even those who are uniquely high achieving) . And this is done for example, by using different representation methods like textbooks, videos and hands on learning, using different expression methods like paper tests, oral presentation, drama, music and using different means to motivate children, because they are all different.

As a person who had difficulty with math, and who could not study in noisy environments, I absolutely loved this idea! I always learnt better with videos (up until university actually) and I loved writing fictional stories (but I never thought I could make a career of it). I was always intrigued by the keyboard and I loved playing soccer (I was never encouraged on the first one, and was discouraged from the latter). I went to schools where every student learnt at the same pace, and was expected to do as well as every other student.

But, the idea that everybody learns at the same pace, or that everyone must understand concepts the same way is bollox! Every child is literally as different as their fingerprints are, they have different interests, enjoy different things, study in different ways, socialize in different ways, and excel in different ways, and the ‘Universal Design for Learning’ concept addresses this. It takes into account different needs and abilities and tries to cater to all, in an effort to give every child an equal opportunity to excel. It is not constraining, and instead allows students to appreciate their differences and unique abilities from a very young age. It fosters inclusiveness, tolerance and open-mindedness. The whole concept is brilliant, and I wish that someday every school, or, at least more schools on the continent could implement this way of learning.

You should also check out this short film on YouTube — “Alike”.

Picture Retrieved from www.udlcenter.org

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