Progressive Education And Theories: CTET Preparation

Progressive education and theories started as a movement against strict, disciplinary and ritualistic ways of imparting education. It was a revolt against the inhuman, mechanistic idea of education in which children were treated as empty vessels that would be filled by teachers. There was an unequal relationship between the teacher and the student and authority and power were at the side of teacher. A school is the place where adults are prepared. Thus, teachers ought to be concerned about the adult life of the student or child and not the child’s current life and experience

Progressive education puts children at the center of education. In progressive education, child aptitude and creative nature become the fulcrum of debate for reforming traditional education. The movement supports the idea of individual identity and choice of the child. It puts faith on the child’s nature and argues that children are inherently good, rejecting the old school of thought that portrayed children as sinful creatures that needed reformation. It believes that children are curious, creative, and have an innate disposition towards learning.

Some of the important theories of progressive education are discussed as follows:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Theory of Progressive Education

Rousseau is one of the famous thinkers of progressive education whose ideas have influenced educational theory significantly. Rousseau asserted that man has misinterpreted the meaning of education and therefore could not achieve the ultimate aim of life. He or she is suppressed from within. However, Rousseau strongly believed that education is a social agency that helps in developing linkages among people in the society.

Rousseau argued for education in close proximity to nature with no human intervention and believed that education should be available in accordance with the nature of each human being. It should not be imposed or given authoritatively. He criticized formal education process as they were hindrance to creative learning.

We can conclude that Rousseau believed in promoting child-centric education where the learner’s role is more active, prominent and constructive.

John Dewey Theory of Progressive Education

John Dewey is associated with the idea of pragmatism. He was an American philosopher born in the year 1859. According to his progressive education and theories, he believed that a child does not reach school as a blank slate upon which a teacher can write whatever he or she wants. When a child enters a classroom, he or she is already intensely active. Therefore, teachers should give children appropriate opportunities for their development instead of imposing their ideas on the young earners.

Dewey believed that:

  • Ultimate aim of education is to develop inherent ability and capabilities of a child.
  • Education is for children, children are not for education.
  • Child’s development will depend more on social experiences he or she may go through.
  • Learners come to the learning situation with already developed concepts about various ideas.
  • Believed on two broad objectives of education i.e., individual and social.

Aurobindo Ghosh’s Theory

Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta and he studied in England. He was an explorer and adventurer in consciousness, a visionary of evolution. He learnt many languages and had a spiritual bend of mind. He saw the objective of education as discovery and growth of the soul. For education to be complete, he argued, it must have five principal aspects corresponding to five principal activities of the human being:

  • Physical
  • Vital
  • Mental
  • Psychic
  • Spiritual

He promoted progressive education and theories. He said Indian education has been suffering the disastrous effect of European colonization. It encourages to study only for the sake of escaping punishment or to pass an immediate test. Thus, education needs overhaul and has to do away with the evils of straining and cramming. This could be done by studying the mind and evolving a system of teaching, which should be natural, easy, and effective.

Sri Aurobindo also emphasizes the need for the perfection of senses. The teacher must care of this. As senses are carriers of all material knowledge of the world and communicate with mind in generating knowledge, it is imperative that education should remove impurities of the senses. Education should be universal and without boundaries. It must have in it a past, a present and an idea of future. A child may belong to a particular nation, age and society but he is a child of the past, possessor of the present and aiming towards the future.

Rabindranath Tagore Theory of Progressive Education

Rabindranath Tagore is a naturalist. He was born in Calcutta and spent much of his early life in proximity with nature. He went to formal school but gradually withdrew from formal schooling when he was around 14 years old. The remainder of his education was carried out at home through his own personal efforts and with the help of tutors in various subjects.

Tagore considered education as an important factor that can make or ruin a society. He viewed lack of education as a major hurdle that thwarted India’s progress. He also pointed out to many evil practices in society and said education can help our country to do away with these practices and create a free society where the mind is without fear. He criticized the contemporary education and education system and said that it devised with a shrewd objective of producing clerks to man government offices and British businesses in India. He always defended nationwide education system, which provides space for development of uniqueness, freedom and knowledge in natural settings.

He argued that education should be given in one’s mother tongue and criticized education in English, which is a foreign language. He considered English as an extra burden on the learner. He argued that learners have to deal with two aspects simultaneously, namely, content and the English language. Education can be considered modern only if it helps to meet the needs of the society; if it does not do this, it cannot be thought of as modern.

Tagore questioned the existing system of education for its unrealistic nature, which does not help to meet the requirement of the nation or society. According to him, in its present setup, education simply produces an individual without critical, analytical and scientific temperament.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Theory

Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas in the political and social sphere have been highly recognized but his contribution in the field of education have not received the needed recognition. Except for the ideas of basic education, nothing else was considered very important or received much attention in the education system of the colonial era. But Gandhi’s ideas gained popularity and therefore we consider him as an educationist.

Gandhi perceived education as a means for all-round development; and for this, he focused on proper training of the mind and body. He talked about the inter-relatedness of hand, mind and soul. The combination of these three will facilitate the development of a child. Truth and purity is the foundation of education, where children will learn to make out the difference between good and bad. It is the schools’ responsibility to make a child realize and achieve his or her full potential.

Women’s education has also been favored by Gandhi and he said there is no ground on which we can discriminate between men and women as far as education is concerned. He acknowledged that equal education to men and women will help to reduce social evils and problems. According to him, education plays an important role to regenerate society and abolish all its ill-conceived structures. He also advocated adult education.

Closing Comments

Progressive education and theories is a pedagogical movement, which began in the 19th century. It can be seen an umbrella term which incorporates ideas and perspectives of various thinkers. We have studied different thinkers and their ideas about progressive education. They have given their view about education, which is distinguished from the traditional understanding of education. Progressive education values the child experiences and demand dismantling of authoritarian practices in school and educational institutions.


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