Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and a Child’s Education

Imagine a family being stranded in a desert due to a war situation. What do you think will primarily be on their minds? Finding food and water and making an appropriate shelter, the basic survival needs, will be their main preoccupation as well as protecting themselves from hostile forces. Keeping this in mind, let us look at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Abraham Maslow, was a great proponent of adding a human touch to the study of psychology. He also based most of his theories on motivation and education based on the study of healthy individuals who achieved world-wide admiration for their humanity and genius like Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identified the various needs that a human being in a society needs to help him/her achieve his/her fullest potential. His theory needs to be carefully studied by all educators, social workers as well as human resource personnel and is of great significance. His theory is expressed in terms of a hierarchy; however, it can be studied in a parallel manner as all the needs can be equally important to lead a healthy quality of life for a human being.

The following is a short summary of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs keeping in mind the education of a child:

1. Physiological needs: The most basic need of every human being is to have adequate amounts of food and water to help their mind and body to function at optimum levels. A hungry or dehydrated child will not be able to concentrate or participate in school activities as well as he/she could with adequate levels of the required energy requirements. States like Tamil Nadu in India have midday-meal programs for poor school children which meets this basic requirement and to raise literacy levels. Physiological needs also include clean air and adequate rest/sleep.

2. Safety needs: Human beings need to feel safe and free from tension and anxiety. In a war scenario or in a crime-infested locality, safety needs are not met. A child in a war zone or exposed to crime of any kind will be disturbed and unable to properly concentrate on learning. Modern educational institutions go to great lengths to create a safe and conducive place for learning. A strong and responsible police presence as well as an effective justice system ensures that people feel safe and can lead a carefree life.

3. Need for love and affection: Interpersonal relationships including family, friends and peer group relationship which is filled with love, respect and caring and enable a student to learn and engage in activities with a deep sense of joy and involvement. Learning in schools needs to happen in an atmosphere of love and respect rather than fear which can be detrimental to a vulnerable and sensitive child.

4. Esteem needs: Another very important need that shapes a human being and ensures that a child is on his/her way to reach her fullest potential is the esteem need. Every child needs to feel loved and more importantly valued for their uniqueness. Esteem needs get enhanced with encouragement and motivation. Appreciation of the child, for her/his unique contributions in any endeavour go a long way in meeting esteem needs.

5. Self-actualization: Self-actualization is a need that can only be met when all the other needs are met. It is the attainment of a human being’s fullest potential at a particular point in time. Self-actualized individuals transcend their own being and think in terms of the whole of humanity. They engage in activities that will benefit humanity at large and are concerned with the betterment of society and maintenance of well-being, peace and justice in a creative and innovative manner. They are highly balanced individuals with a deep sense of integrity and are not swayed by manipulative forces. The primary aim of education needs to be to nurture children to grow into self-actualized individuals.