The four pillars of learning

I often reflect on the 4 pillars of learning in amongst the dialogue that goes on around a school. Around 2000 UNESCO identified the 4 pillars of learning that shape and reshape education. The 4 pillars are – ‘learning to know, learning to be, leaning to do and learning to live together’.

When you strip everything back, and utilising the notion of school being a metaphor for life, it doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of New York Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 10.10.02 AM.pngcity or rural New Zealand, the children’s education and experiences at school come back to the 4 main principles of the 4 pillars of learning – to know, to be, to do, and to live together.

Learning does not finish at school either. It goes on while we exist and so this reflects back into our school vision of children that learn creatively and strive for excellence preparing for lifelong learning.

So what do the pillars mean –

Learning to know: this is about acquiring tools to better understand the world and its complexities, and to provide a foundation for future learning.

Learning to do: this is about developing the skills that would enable individuals to effectively participate in the global economy and society.

Learning to be: this is about being self analytical and having the social skills to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential to be an all-round ‘complete person.

Learning to live together: this is about exposing individuals to the values of human rights, democratic principles, intercultural understanding and respect and peace at all levels of society and human relationships to enable individuals and societies to live in peace and harmony.

So while they are big goals, our children interact with these pillars everyday, wherever our children are, whatever they are doing.

I saw this, this week at school. The process of the Lower Middle drama was an example of the 4 pillars in action. It started with seed for learning of the small bag of beans on the first day of term, through the development of the play together as a team, with each class member, be it child or teacher having to contribute their ideas, in discussions and in their writing, to the actual final performance for our families.

As they went along each class had to know, to be , to do and to ‘live’ togeIMG_4587.JPGther. In this journey, amongst all the ups and downs of putting it all together…the children learned and they grew.

So to expand on this what did we see while this drama was growing from the bag of beans to the play?

Learning to know is not about accumulating knowledge but more about learning to learn. It is about developing concentration, memory skills, inquiry, thinking, application etc. The consequence of this skill building is that students can go out and acquire knowledge relative to their needs. The knowledge in the word is increasing and speed beyond what we can keep up. Our children don’t learn the things we learned at school, because there is new things to engage with.


It does not necessarily matter what topic you are learning about as long as you are developing the skills of ‘learning to know’.

Learning to be is the holistic development of the person…as an individual, a member of a family, a community, as a responsible citizen. A person’s complete development engages the mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, appreciation and spirituality. An education that equips them to develop their own independent, critical way of thinking and judgement so that they can make up their own minds on the best courses of action in the different circumstances in their lives.

Learning to do … this is about growing the willingness to work or complete tasks. This adds to the community aspect of living together, the growth aspect of being and the ability to use knowledge for something. This is turning personal skills into personal competence. It is assessed by looking at a mix of skills and talents, social behaviour, personal initiative and a willingness to work.

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Learning to live together is the development of empathy whereby our actions have a positive effect of others around us. We do this by understanding each other, resolving conflict through dialogue and discussion and appreciating the people that surround us. Some would say that this is the most important pillar and perhaps the hardest to work within.

The things we do at Kelburn set our children up for success at College. Our children will have different strengths and interests, but they will be well on their way to knowing, to doing, to being and to living together!

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