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Experts show how neuroscience can help us rethink educational practice



A special event, hosted by IBE-UNESCO has explored how insights from neuroscience can help us rethink educational practice.

The event, co-organized with the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), heard evidence from three IBE-UNESCO/IBRO Science of Learning Fellows. These highly distinguished academics were based at the IBE in Geneva throughout Autumn 2017 on special fellowships that have aimed to support and explain key neuroscience research on learning and the brain to educators, policymakers and governments.

At the event, marking the end of their fellowships, Jiaxian Zhou, from East China Normal University, presented on “Connecting mind, brain and education”.  Professor Jiaxian Zhou explained that educational neuroscience is a new discipline, which “integrates neuroscience, cognitive science and education”. The discipline is, she said, key to developing national educational strategies because it focuses on the whole learner path to knowledge acquisition.

Nuanchan Chutabhakdikula second IBE-UNESCO/IBRO Science of Learning Fellow from Mahidol University, Thailand, presented on “Neuroscience for early childhood education”. Professor Chutabhakdikul said that a major issue in early childhood is children’s incapacities to regulate their own emotions. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are behavioral issues that can slow children’s learning at school, she explained. It is, she said, vital to train young children to develop better cognitive control and self-regulation in order to improve their abilities to learn and set them on a path to lifelong learning.

The final presentation was entitled “From lab to school: cognitive interventions using tablets and cards to scaffold math learning in children”.  The presentation was by a third Fellow, Alejandro Maiche, from Universidad de la Republica de Uruguay. Professor Maiche presented evidence from several interventions that he and his team have developed in Uruguay over the last five years. The goal of their study was to determine the cognitive abilities related to math in children aged from 4 to 7 years old using cards and tablets.
The event’s moderator was Dr Paul Howard Jones from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Dr Jerome Prado from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France was the discussant.

Dr Mmantsetsa Marope, Director of the IBE, explained that the IBE-UNESCO/IBRO Science of Learning Fellowships are helping to translate learning about neuroscience and education into simple language so that people such as parents can clearly understand the goals of curriculum design. She said that she shared with IBRO an ambition to see the relevant learning from neuroscience incorporated into educational system design.