Topic Detail
Theories of Education

The most common educational theories are:

  1. Perenialism
  2. Essentialism
  3. Progressivism
  4. Reconstructionism
  5. Existentialism

1. Perenialism

     The oldest philosophy as to say that which is founded “on the pillars of the past”. Generally it is called regressive theory. Past is most important in this theory.

Basic Theory: According to this theory, truth is that which is not variable and basic realities never change (status quo in curriculum & education is called perenialism.

  1. These basic realities were first discovered by great philosophers we should benefit from their great discoveries.
  2. They use the intellectual and logical reasoning for the approach to reality
  3. They prefer the concepts and theories to practice
  4. The aim of education, according to them is to shine the wisdom and reasoning and not to make it practically useful.
  5. Neither there is any need of including practical problems in the curriculum nor to waste time in their solution.
  6. Here, the students and the teachers discuss the theoretical and general matters/problems instead of the special problems of their atmosphere.

This theory is based on the philosophy of idealism in education. 

Basic Principles:

  1. The human nature never changes; hence there should be uniformed education everywhere for each nation of the world.
  2. Education is preparation for life and it is not totally copying it.
  3. To import knowledge of eternal realities is the most important obligation of education
  4. Reason and argumentation is the distinct feature of the mankind and he should use it for his own guidance
  5. Discipline provides freedom of thought (liberal arts) is comparatively studied more.


2. Essentialism (life needs something essentials)

A school of thought which is deeply related to perennialism, is called essentialism. In this theory as opposed to Jhon Dewy’s philosophy of interest; discussion on the concept of necessity (essentialism) and the subject matter started.

The exponents of essentialism are not so conservative as to die for each tradition of ancient era and consider the oldest instructions only to be maintainable. But rather, they love the useful and time tested cultural heritage of near past.

It means that only the useful and stable cultural heritage may be adopted. This heritage is very widely known with the name of educational essentials, knowledge of which is very necessary for each student. However, unless and educational innovation is tested (experimented) and witnessed by the world, it cannot be admitted into the essentialism. That is why, Brameld (nd) has called the theory of essentialism “The traditionalist (Peremialist) highway of the culture).”

The philosophy of essentialism is a composite of the idealism and realism in educational philosopher. This appears to be philosophy of the middle class. What so ever may be its name, central importance is given to the selection and explanation of authentic, useful and experimental educational materials.

The Basic Principles

  1. Consistent hard work and diligence (Education and knowledge is not a sweet drink, it could be bitter, as well)
  2. During the educational process instead of student, the teacher should take steps.
  3. Gaining solid educational material is the spirit of educational process.
  4. To adopt the traditional methods to sharpen the mind and make it brilliantly shine.


3. Progressivism (Dynamism and innovation in life is necessary)

In this theory instead of past, the present is loved. All new things are adopted very happily and are tested experimentally, and the good / useful things are further promoted. The cost and value of each thing is its “usefulness”.

Patterson and William James are its supporters or pioneers. They are of the opinion that life is ever variable. It moves forward constantly, we should therefore remain ready always for a new solution and reframing.

In this philosophy, variation, evolution, freedom (liberty), experimentation, fruitfulness and continuous diligence hold very important position. Progressivism is the instructional / educational shape of pragmatism.

Braneld (nd) names it as a “free high way of culture” because individual enjoys maximum freedom. The students are trained to solve the practical problems. So that they may be able to lead a successful life and not to remain strayed in the only theoretical and educational things, the central importance in the education is the student (student centered education & curriculum).

The Principles of Progressivism

  1. Education itself is a life and it is not a preparation for life.
  2. The interest and trends of the children are the real basis of learning
  3. Problem solving oriented program maintain supremacy on cramming the subject matter only.
  4. Teacher is the guide / facilitator and leader
  5. The school should emphasis on co-operation and association
  6. The school should be run on the principle of democracy


4. Existentialism (Reason & feelings for existence of life and universe)

Existentialism is a distinctive philosophy (theory) from the traditional philosophers. Here, instead of soul, reason and thought, the human existence and sentiments / feelings relatively are discussed more. It is a protest against idealism of Plato and Hengel

In this theory it is tried to go along with enthusiasm and reason, the explicit and intrinsic or latent together. Mankind is the bearer of emotions and a personality to do deliberations and thinking too.

To expresses abstract thoughts without ant enthusiasm and sentiments is like pinching the dead bones. According to existentialism, the universe has no meaning without human being. In existentialism the human existence is the greatest reality.

Basic Principles:

  1. First existence and then the essence or soul. Complete liberty is the real essence of life and universe.
  2. The life and universe are aimless without existence.
  3. Human being is free and he himself is answerable to his own deeds.
  4. Man himself is the builder of his future
  5. Mankind is the mixture of reason and enthusiasm / feelings and there must be unity between them while taking any decision
  6. Mankind should be concerned with the long lasting problems. He should know the mystery of death and life. They should know the grief (depth of feeling) of love and affection of separation.   


5. Reconstructionism (Life needs new adjustment / changing life style of community)

According to this philosophy (theory), there is a dire need of bringing about basic and revolutionary changes in the different societies of the world, because neither the minor reformative steps work in the present day condition and nor the old prescription or tips could deliver goods (could benefit). In addition to that there is a dire need of reconstruction in all fields of life, which could best be done by education.

Reconstructionism is a social philosophy (theory). In this theory preference is given to collective interests, problems and needs. This philosophy is the torch barrier of collectivism instead of progressivism. It means to demolish the old building completely and reconstruct purely a new one on fresh foundation with consultations of all social groups, adopting democratic attitude.

Basic Principles:

  1. The education should undertake the experimentation of new social system immediately for adjustment in new social development
  2. The new society must be a democratic one in the real sense.
  3. Social and cultural factors are bound to influence / affect the child, school and educational process.
  4. The teacher may convince the students about the need of the reconstruction
  5. There is dire need of the reconstruction of the educational objectives and resources (reorganization of education is direly needed)