The Philosophy

There are different philosophies regarding early childhood education. The first step in establishing a school is formulating the philosophy that will reflect the values and beliefs of the administration and the families that will participate in the program (Sciarra & Dorsey, 1995). Without the specific goals and objectives, the programs will seem no more than baby-sitting (Taylor, 1989).

All components of the school program should adhere to a philosophy. However, several preschools assert their eclecticism as an advertising pitch. They assert that a mixture of philosophies is better than just one. However, eclecticism poses a dilemma for the preschool administrator to the point of ineffectiveness. In the book Philosophic Theory and Practice in Educational Administration (1966), by Graff, Street, Kimbrough and Dykes it states that efficient school administration needs administrators who have an intellectualized, consistent and comprehensive set of philosophical concepts. “Eclecticism constitutes a very real barrier to the achievement of this consistency.” They point out that the school administrator does not have a basis for choices in decision-making. Also, the administration becomes shifty with its statements. Therefore, upon choosing the philosophy, the administrator should be committed in staying true to it.

In Kohlberg and Mayer’s “Development as the Aim of Education” (1971), they identified three streams of educational ideology that the various philosophies or approaches fall under – Romanticism, Cultural Transmission (or what is more commonly known as Traditional), and the Progressive Stream or Progressivism.

The Progressive Stream holds that education should cultivate the child’s natural interaction with a developing society or environment. The progressive stream highlights the child’s educational experience that encourages thought, creativity and learning. It bridges the gaps that Romantics and Traditionalists have between the child and his/her experiences whether it is in concord or conflict (Cremin, 1962; Kohlberg & Mayer, 1971; Gardner, 1991). Romanticism focuses mainly on the internal experience or the inner self. Traditionalists believe on the external and teacher-oriented experience. The advocates of the progressive stream – like Dewey, Piaget and Bruner –join both the inner and outer experiences through a qualitative interaction with the environment in best understanding the development of the child.

According to Dewey in his Pedagogic Creed (1897) in “Education in America: Colonial Roots to Progressivism”, education must start with a psychological foresight into the child’s capabilities, interests and habits. He continues by stating, “education is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” It is, therefore, more important for the school to value the child’s individuality rather than what he will be as a future economic unit. The child is a thinking, self-propelling and well-adjusted individual (Covar, 1987).
Kohlberg and Mayer also mentioned the issue of the aims of education being universal or individual. The Cultural Transmission approach characteristically centers on measures of individual differences based on existing societal norms. Any individual can be ranked in this way. The progressive and the romantic prefer to seek qualitative and significant learning experience in the child’s own development and not a population average or norm. In this light, progressive preschools do not have “examinations” –like what traditional preschools do –because this will concede to the societal norm of grading the developmental skills of the child and rank them against each other. They would rather have individual assessments wherein the focus is on the child’s own progress and individuality.

Ultimately, because the interaction and experience of each child is essential in a progressive preschool, the child congruently understands the concepts being introduced in a deeper level. Progressive schools are referred to as “child¬centered schools” – the activities grow out of the child’s interests and needs (Washburne, 1952).

Major studies of progressive education – particularly the Eight-Year Study of the 1930’s –documented that, on a wide-ranging set of measures, graduates of progressive schools performed as well as or better than those of matched ability and background who had attended traditional institutions (Cremin, 1961; Gardner, 1991). Also, because of this study, evaluation has changed from the value of measurement to a value of philosophical purpose and observation (Kimbrough & Nunnery, 1983).

In terms of the child’s attitude towards their preschool program, a study done by Granados in 1995 showed that the 30 preschoolers coming from the progressive program were the most satisfied and possessed the most positive attitude toward their preschool program as compared to the 60 children that studied in the Traditional and Romantic (Montessori) preschools. The study further states that the children from the progressive program listed considerably more reasons for liking than disliking their school and were more unified with their response compared to the other two schools.

If you are a parent looking for a progressive school for your child, ask the school owner what the school’s philosophy is. If they say eclectic, be wary. It means they are unsure of their philosophy. If you are a school owner and want know more about the Progressive Philosophy, there are 2 things you need to do:

1. Enroll in the University of the Philippines and take a course in Family Life and Child Development in the College of Home Economics. It is the pioneering institution in leading the way for teachers to learn the progressive philosophy.

2. Read this blog regularly 🙂

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