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© Virginia Ruan / Oak Foundation


Approximately 20 per cent of children (10 million students) in United States public schools have learning profiles that are not aligned with the expectations and teaching methodologies prevalent in mainstream school systems; they learn differently. Students with learning differences include those who have dyslexia, attention issues and learning disabilities.


As a result of this mismatch, students with learning differences are often perceived as not being capable of performing well in school, as unmotivated or as just not trying hard enough. These students often disengage from school, perform poorly and may not graduate. Those who graduate often choose not to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities. As adults, many are under-employed or can even end up in prison.


Individuals with learning differences can achieve to the same standards as their peers; however, they often struggle to reach their full potential because:


  • teachers report being under prepared and lack resources to support diverse learners;

  • students are often misunderstood and not included in the conversation;

  • parents are not equipped with knowledge and tools to understand and advocate for their children;

  • most personalised learning environments are not optimised for neuroscience advances need to be translated into practice; and

  • tools need to be strengthened and developed to describe the dimensions of learning.



In the Learning Differences Programme, we envision a world where students with learning differences are agents of their own learning success and are supported by educators and environments that expect, embrace and respond to diverse learner profiles. Our hope is that students with a wide range of learning profiles achieve success within public schools, from kindergarten through to high school, and transition to and through college and other post-secondary opportunities.



Strengthen teacher capacity

Prepare teachers to expect and plan for all students’ learning profiles, especially those with learning differences.


Engage students

Engage students with learning differences as key partners in their own learning and development.


Enhance parent knowledge and support

Provide parents of students with learning differences the information, tools and guidance needed to support student academic, social and emotional success.


Personalise learning environments

Support the application of personalised learning and neuroscience research findings to strengthen educational

environments for students with learning differences.


Build demand

Promote awareness of, and strengthen demand for, educational environments that are responsive to students with learning differences.



Explore learner profile tool(s)

Develop or enhance tools that support educators, parents and students in better understanding and responding to individual learner profiles.


In our first five years, we made over 60 grants and invested more than USD 28 million in the field of learning differences. Today, the field is very different than when our programme began. There is:


  • Greater focus on the “1 in 5” individuals with learning differences;
  • Deeper coordination and collaboration across organisations; and
  • A greater connection between neuroscience and other research and the practices in classrooms and beyond.


We sought to refine our programme strategy in response to these changes. We undertook a nine-month process to learn about advances in relevant fields, review past grant-making, re-examine priorities and refine the programme strategy.

The content on our website and in the strategic framework reflects these changes.







Our mission

Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.

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©2018 Oak Foundation.
All rights reserved.


Privacy Policy, Security Protocols and Terms of Use.


©2018 Oak Foundation.
All rights reserved.