Critical Analysis of the Three Educational Philosophies

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

In pursuit of promoting the holistic growth of children, many educational philosophies have emerged in different parts of the world. They have distinctive features with origins from various concepts and theoretical perspectives of child development. The three popular educational philosophies in early childhood education are romanticism, cultural transmission, and progressivism. These philosophies play a central role in designing programs for early childhood education including the learning goals, content, and the mode of delivery of lessons. This article provides an overview of how I understood each philosophy including my critical analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

1. Romanticism

This philosophy is based on the maturationist theory. This theory focuses on the idea that, as children grow older their maturity follows even with little influence from their environment. Hence, the learning is considered self-paced because it is according to the child’s developmental milestones.

What I like about this philosophy is that it is child-centered; putting premium on the promotion of children’s imagination and the respect for their freedom. It also views the learner as a self-actualizing individual. This means that it acknowledges the fact that the children go through different processes as they fulfill their full potential. It is during this process that we should encourage children to explore and to allow their inner good to unfold.

In our school, we always say that before we become teachers, we are first and foremost believers of children’s giftings and abilities. I personally believe that each child is blessed with unique talents and my job as a teacher is to nourish those talents so they can become the best that they can ever be. As an advocate of lifelong learner myself, it is noteworthy that romanticism also promotes love for learning.

2. Cultural Transmission

This philosophy, I presume, is the most popular in the Philippines. This is also known as the traditional approach which I myself have personally experienced during my elementary and high school years. Cultural transmission is based on the associationistic (environmental) and behavioristic theories. It focuses on the transmission of preferences, beliefs, traditions, and cultures formed through social interactions across and within generations. It is usually characterized by teacher-directed lessons whereas students learn through guidance and teaching, and their behavior is shaped by rewards and punishments.

While I agree on the part that teachers should be hands-on in guiding their students, I have to differ on the part that lessons are based primarily from the teacher’s interests. I believe that as teachers, we should consider the interests of our students in our lessons as it allows them to use deeper cognition strategies and increase their engagement and persistence. This way, we can help them become self-motivated learners.

Furthermore, cultural transmission philosophy also tends to be too teacher-oriented that students become passive learners because it does not give much importance on the students’ innate abilities. When students are not given the opportunity to voice out their thoughts and ideas, chances are, they will lack the ability to understand what is taught in class. Consequently, while I also like the emphasis on the value of social culture in the formation of positive traits and attitudes, I do not like the idea that it stresses so much on uniformity which can potentially lead to mediocrity.

3. Progressivism

This philosophy is based on the cognitive developmentalist or interactionist theory of development as it focuses on how learners interact with their environment to construct knowledge and understanding. Similar to romanticism, this philosophy is also child-centered because it emphasizes the development of the child. This is also considered the “balanced philosophy” because it gives emphasis both on the process and the product of learning. This asserts that learning is a continuous process through which students develop holistically as they get exposed to various activities that foster hands-on experiences. It also views the learner as an inquisitive critical thinker and problem-solver.

What I like about this philosophy is that it acknowledges the uniqueness of each student. As teachers, this can be a challenge because it requires us to use differentiated strategies and techniques in teaching. At the same time, it is also fulfilling because we are able to cater to the needs and interests of students who may have different backgrounds and learning preferences. I personally believe that the heart of education is the fulfilment of each learner’s purpose in life and the only way to attain this is by being sensitive to their needs. This is what makes our profession noble.

Moreover, I also believe that if we encourage our students to engage in meaningful discourse and thoughtful reflection, they will grow to be lifelong learners capable of dealing with changes and challenges.

In summary, I hope that this article could help parents and teachers to have a better understanding of the different philosophies of education while providing researchers with greater insight into the appropriate frameworks for future studies.

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