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5 visionary approaches to education

Bridget Wood

Image via  An Everyday Story

By Bridget Wood

What kind of education did you grow up with? Your memories may be full of a fondness for your school days, or marred with disappointment. Like most of us, it's probably a mix of both, where your education was pretty standard fare, with worksheets, books, and a teacher up the front teaching you to rote learn your words and times-tables. 

There are a range of different, visionary approaches to education that are worthy of consideration for what they offer the growing child. Some children thrive regardless of where they are; where others may really benefit from a unique and individualised approach to teaching and learning. 

1. Montessori
Rather than being about the teaching of a national curriculum, The Montessori Method aims to aid the child's innate potential for development. Dr Maria Montessori, a physician, anthropologist and pedagogue studied children of many ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds for over 50 years to understand the natural development of children.

Montessori education is 'child-centred', meaning that the child is the active participant in their learning and is free to move around the classroom to select specially-designed materials to aid their learning, with long periods of uninterrupted time for exploration in order to promote concentration and learning at a deep level. 

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have credited much of their success to their Montessori education, with Brin saying, "I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently".

For more information, visit MumLife Australia for their recent interview with Montessori Australia, and join us at 'Most Likely To Succeed' on 24th February where Karen Bennetts of Montessori Australia will be a guest on our Q&A panel.

2. Steiner/Waldorf education
Austrian Philosopher Rudolph Steiner felt that the human being must be free and autonomous. The Steiner curriculum is based on a holistic and integrative approach  that aims to develop the cognitive, emotional, ethical and spiritual aspects of the child. 

Aesthetics, beauty and natural materials are a key focus in the learning environment, where the classroom is designed to resemble a home and open-ended toys and materials are provided to encourage imaginative play in the early years. 

In the early primary years, the emphasis is on oral literacy, with the children immersed in the rhythm and rhyme of language, including verse, song and stories. This is believed to pave the way for reading and writing, which is introduced around age 7. 

Information technology generally isn't introduced until high school, which interestingly is an approach also adopted by some in Silicon Valley. The belief is that at this stage, children are able to apply themselves imaginatively to IT, rather than being passive consumers. 

3. Reggio Emilia
The Reggio Emilia approach to early learning values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. It originated in the town of Reggio Emilia (and surrounding areas) in Italy after World War II out of a movement towards progressive and cooperative early childhood education. 

 The fundamental principles of a Reggio Emilia approach are:

- Children are capable of constructing their own learning
- Children form and understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others
- Children are communicators
- The environment is the third teacher
- The adult is a mentor and guide
- The One Hundred Languages of Children

For more information and a great example of the Reggio Emilia approach in action, visit An Everyday Story

4. Wilhelm Schole International
Founded by educator Marilyn Wilhelm in 1972, the Wilhelm Schole International is a unique approach to education which is grounded in 'Universal Cultural Traditions and Standards of Thought'. The interdisciplinary, intercultural, interlingual and interfaith curriculum reflects an ancient holistic approach where the arts, the sciences, and the humanities are woven together and related to universal values; 'the invariants of civilised life'.

Some of the key principles are:
1. Family is the taproot of civilization.
2. There are fundamental, Universal Principles which have been expressed in every Age and in every Culture and in every Language that must be transmitted to our children.
3. We are the first Cosmopolis, the first global civilization.  Therefore, studies begin in Africa and Asia, our oldest Cultures, move from there to the Greek and Roman eras, then to the Arabic period and the opening of the New World with its many Cultures of great antiquity of the Americas, then to the Modern era.
4.  Breakthroughs in modern physics, biology, ecology, and other sciences verify the fact that the Cosmos is a kinship system.

For an inspiring look at the Wilhelm Schole, view the short video series "To see a world"
(The video is a little dated, but the principles are timeless).

5. International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) 
The philosophy of the PYP is to make the students into "inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective". As it's an international school curriculum, it's grounded in the principle of educating children as global citizens. 

The PYP is designed for children aged 3-12 and it focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. The concept of 'inquiry based learning' is ingrained in PYP schools in everything they do. The learning framework is guided by six transdisciplinary themes which are explored in each of the six subject areas (maths, science, language, arts, social studies, physical, social and personal education):
- Who we are
- Where we are in place and time
- How we express ourselves
- How the world works
- How we organise ourselves
- Sharing the planet

Is there a particular educational approach that ignites your interest? Something you think you personally would have benefitted from, or perhaps your children?

To be part of the conversation on transforming education, join us for 'Most Likely To Succeed' on Wednesday 24th February for an inspiring, thought-provoking film and discussion.