The term “Barrier to learning” is often used interchangeably with the term “Learning Difficulty” – and even though barriers to learning may include learning difficulties, they cover so much more than just that.  Barriers to learning refer to any difficulty or situation that may prevent a children from learning and can be loosely divided into the following categories:

  • Emotional and Health barriers – these may include factors such as chronic illnesses that prevent children from attending school or could indicate poor health of family members, including things like substance by parents that may cause them to not take the child to school regularly.
  • Financial Issues  – for instance children who are undernourished will find it very difficult to concentrate at school, no matter how regularly they attend.  Issues such as lack of access to adequate childcare, inadequate availability of learning resources and crime and violence also often occur in very poor communities.
  • Cultural and Social Issues – Children may be discriminated against based on their race or gender and prevented from attending school because of these factors.  Think of societies in which girls are expected to stay home to help with the housework while their brothers are sent to school.
  • Barriers within the academic system – striking or inefficient teachers and an inflexible curriculum that does not account for the differences in how children learn are examples of these.
  • Language and Education – This is an especially relevant issue in this country.  Think of all the learners in this country who attend school in a language other than their home language.  Sometimes the language of education is not even just a second language but often even a third or fourth language!
  • Lack of parental involvement – This barrier to learning is often overlooked, but the available research shows a very definite decline in academic results and school attendance in families where parents do not take an active interest in their children’s schooling.
  • Learning difficulties – these may include difficulties within the child such as Dyslexia or ADHD that prevent them from performing according to their true potential.

Sometimes barriers to learning may compound – think for instance of a physically disabled child in a poor community.  His parents may worry that he will not be able to contribute meaningfully to the family income one day and so choose not to send him to school, but to rather spend their available resources on his able bodied sibling’s education.

It is so important for all of us to be aware of these barriers to learning so that we may not only work together to find ways to remove these barriers for our children, but also that we find ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place.