According to Gribble (1985) in progressive schools, there is this sense of social equality between adults and children which is one of the progressive ideals. Where the staffs are violent, pupils could also use the same method as a defence mechanism. Gribble further opined that just as machines are used by people so teachers should be used by children too and not children being directed by teachers. In line with progressive education, children’s learning should be purposeful, not tied to a particular curriculum usually entrusted on them with series of examinations and tests/assessments.
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The teachers’ moral responsibility is to help the children, guiding them to explore their talents and interests. It is however, important to avoid instilling irrational beliefs that children might not understand. The child must learn how to develop independency. Anything that has the tone of moral compulsion is against the principles of progressive education, which uniqueness “rests firmly on the refusal to impose a particular set of values not only the ones contained in the curriculum” (Gribble 1985). The philosophy of progressive schools has no room for any dictated creed.
Children in progressive schools are allowed to make a choice and to express their opinions freely. The extent to which this is practiced depends on each school because children are helped to see learning as something they should enjoy. “Progressive schools discourage competitiveness” (Gribble 1985). Since children make their own choices and work at their own pace and not according to the dictate of anyone, it means that the individual pupil does not need to compete with anyone. This helps to relax the learning environment making it conducive for learning.
A child neither measures his/her own achievement with any other child’s nor does the OFSTED that would normally pressurise a state or public school present. There is usually no necessity for progressive school authorities to put pressure on the teachers who in turn pass the pressure on to the children through series of tests/assessments in order to be on top of the performance league table. There is usually no punishment in progressive schools and no inclination to any religious dogma or denomination.
However, no matter how ideally progressive education is portrayed as panacea for traditional or conventional form of education as obtains in public, independent and state schools, it is obvious that some of them are not truly and completely progressive. There have been changes in the application of the original philosophy as propounded by pioneers of progressive educational methods some of whose contributions are mentioned and discussed next. Progressive thinkers There are some famous thinkers on childhood whose work are so vital in the history of child-centred education.
Some of these writers in the early years did not categorically call their work progressive education, but what they did was catalytic to the formulation of body of knowledge that is called progressive education today to which a lot of acknowledgement is owed. This essay will briefly talk about their ideas, principles and ethos. One of these early writers was Jean Jacques Rousseau whose writings and progressive tilt brought about a fundamental change in the education of children. According to Darling J. ( ) in Rousseau’s book Emile (1762), it is stressed that man should not disturb child growth but leave it the way nature has provided for it.
Child-centred education came as an alternative due to dissatisfaction about the traditional education of that time. This rejection helped to fashion out current progressive education thought. In Emile, Rousseau asserts that the progressive idea took its root against the background of obligation and child depravity attached to children in those days where strict discipline and moral training for children was the norm. Rousseau rejected this idea and believed that children are good; that the evil seen in children is from a corrupt society. His ideas were that children should not be trained in such a way as to repress their natural tendency.
When juxtaposed to modern progressive education concepts it translates to not imposing any particular learning style on children but rather allowing them to discover things by themselves “Young children’s educational programmes should in Rousseau’s view be confined to those things in which they have natural interest” (Darling1994: 8 ). Rousseau promoted the fact that children learned from direct experience and opined that feeling is always learning, which can be understood to mean- learning from environment and not from a book. Rosseau is of the opinion that children should not be taught how to read until they are ready.
He imagined that they would understand by learning from the environment and from feeling things around them. In addition to that he was of the belief that there has to be little information from a book. This is echoed by Calydon [ed] (1969:50) when it is said that “Experience goes before instruction”. However Rousseau did not clarify when learning from a book should set in but children should also seek information from books. This opinion is true because looking at teachers for instance, they had to learn from books and not only depend on experience.
In modern progressive education students learn largely from experience as well as from books. Rousseau also advocated cordial relationship between a child and the teacher and that the child should learn from their actions. As discussed earlier progressive education does not see the teacher in authority like the teacher is seen in public schools; progressive education is therefore more of a child- centred approach to teaching. According to Darling ( ) Rosseau divided childhood into stages of human growth and development. He contended that different stages of growth require specific techniques.
Therefore in progressive education pupils are given individual attention because each child has their own needs and peculiarities depending on their stages. Friedrich Froebel who established the first kindergarten at Keilhau, Germany in 1837 contributed immensely to the progressive idea of education. He believed that everyone has a spiritual value. Like Rosseau, he believed that every child had within themselves what they were to be at birth. He also believed that the appropriate educational environment would encourage the child to achieve optimum development.