Culture and Early Childhood Learning

During the period from birth to 5 years of age, children undergo massive transformations in size, biological organization, behavioral capacities, and the social organization of experience that greatly complicate our understanding of the relation between culture and their learning processes. Culture plays an essential role in how children make sense of the world. Development of signification and adoption of the appropriate cultural tools (symbols, meanings, scripts, goals etc.) of human activity are basic challenges of early learning. Learning mediated by culture requires consideration of a cultural context that cannot be reduced to laboratory conditions. What kinds of environmental organization promote children’s learning of their cultural heritage? How do different cultural traditions shape children’s learning? How are different modes of learning related in different cultural circumstances? Are there “qualitative leaps” in early childhood related to culturally-related changes in modes of learning?

Misunderstanding the cultural character of early childhood learning has resulted in a situation where effective forms of learning and sense making that take place in a play context are eliminated from children’s life. When learning is defined in terms of analytic understanding, children’s own subcultures and play forms are denied. A negative consequence of this view may be diminished impact of learning on child development.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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