What is the philosophy of education?




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As a teacher, do you have a philosophy to guide your teaching style? Have you consciously thought of how you will interact with your students? If your answers to these questions are no. Then follow me through this article so that we will discuss the concept of philosophy of education and why it is important for you, whether you are a new one or an experienced one to have a philosophy of education. Anyway, what is the philosophy of education?

Philosophy of education refers to the principles, attitudes, and beliefs of an individual or an institution regarding how teaching and learning take place in the school environment. That is, what are the principles that guide the relationships among students, between students and teachers, and among all the stakeholders of the institution. In short, your beliefs, values, and understanding of how effective teaching and learning is conceptualized and practiced is your education philosophy.

People often panic when they hear the word “philosophy” with the belief that everything will be complex, theory and boring. They might be right. But I am going to do my best to make it simple and practical.

Overview of Philosophy of Education

You may be wondering why we are trying to understand the concept of education philosophy when we are dealing with classroom management and its related issues. It is important to note that you/your institution’s philosophy of education is directly related to how you carry out education activities. That is, what are your beliefs and values regarding effective education and for that matter classroom management.

As you know, philosophers always interest themselves in finding out the meaning of things and how to make sense of it. Here they try to understand the problems of society and its education by asking questions like 1. Are students basically capable or incapable people? 2. How orderly should my classroom be?

In trying to answer these questions, they may come out with different perspectives depending on their understanding of the nature of human beings and society as a whole. Then from here, education will take over to practicalize their views for optimum benefits to society.

This is why I think it is significant for us to understand the nature of education philosophy and why it is important for teachers to consider it in their classroom management processes. Therefore, any effective teacher should have a philosophy of education.

Relationship Between Education and Philosophy

I think it is important for us to look at the relationship between philosophy and education. It is my belief that this will add more meaning to our efforts at learning the meaning of education philosophy and why it is important in classroom management processes.

Philosophy refers to the way of perceiving nature, truth, and life. Thus, what are the ideals and values of an individual regarding life? Your philosophy helps you to comprehensively view the world of nature.

On the other hand, education is basically the transfer of knowledge from one person to another formally, semi-formally, or informally. Education provides the way for knowledge to be transmitted from an individual to another or group or even a generation.

I have presented some of the relationships between them in the table below:

Philosophy Education
Philosophy has to rely on education in order to practicalize its aims and goals Effective education has to be based on a philosophy
Philosophy provides theory Education converts the theory into practice
Philosophy establishes the ideal ways of viewing life and nature Education establishes the means of achieving philosophical ideas

It is safe to say from the above that philosophy and education go hand in hand. That is to say one can’t achieve its goals without the help of the other. Hence, you can realize from the above that education can’t be effective and sound without any bases from philosophy.

It is therefore important to note that you need to have a philosophy that will guide you, as a teacher, to select a teaching technique or approach that will be effective in achieving the goals of education. This is why the philosophy of education is extremely necessary for education.

Philosophical Approaches to Education

In the literature, there are seven main educational philosophies identified and used around the world. It is necessary to understand that these philosophies deal largely with the nature of what to teach in the school. These are explained below;

  1. Perennialism

This philosophy is underpinned by the belief that your students should learn ideas that are long-lasting and true. What are truths? According to perennialism, truths are the ideas of Western civilization. Thus, they suggest that your students should understand the ideas of Western Civilization arguing that they are true and everlasting.

They also highlighted the ability of this philosophy in solving the problems of any society. They postulate that teaching these ideas to your students is extremely essential. Here students take subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics, language, history, arts, and science.

Their main belief is that the human being is rational and therefore you have to work to develop their minds. Thus, you believe that the refinement of students’ intellects is the optimum priority. By this, you craft a curriculum that allows students to gain cultural literacy. Key proponents of this philosophy recommend students to learn some Great Books on Western Civilization.

  1. Essentialism

With this philosophy, the belief is that there is some knowledge that is of particular importance to students. The focus of this philosophy is on teaching moral and intellectual standards. Thus, schools should teach students morality, righteousness, and virtue.

So, if you are an essentialist you try to teach your students to be disciplined, socially savvy, and to understand both the culture and content of the curriculum. You also try to have a well-organized and disciplined environment for teaching and learning. Further, you structure your curriculum very well. Finally, teaching students about the importance of diligence and efforts to mastering the curriculum is a key part of your job.

In the nutshell: you teach students to become responsible individuals in society; to acquire life-long learning abilities, and to be able to preserve and transmit the essential parts of culture to the next generation.

  1. Progressivism

This philosophy argues that human beings are social by nature and therefore learn best in real-life situations with other humans. Here the main goal of education is to transmit the identity of society to the younger generation. Group learning is highly valued under this philosophy with the belief that some particular skills can only be learned in groups. Also, the idea is that issues and barriers of race and classes are addressed when people communicate and learn with one another. Finally, progressivists encourage experimentation and the application of reason to solve human problems.

If you are a progressivist, you allow your students to have a feel of real-life problems and allow them to reason in order to solve them. Also, you challenge them with meaningful questions in order to ignite their creative and thinking capabilities. Finally, you offer freedom for your students and work to facilitate their creative abilities.

  1. Constructivism

Under this philosophy, learners are considered to be active agents who always engage in constructing their own knowledge. Due to this, it is recommended that the knowledge, skills, and experiences exhibited by individuals in a learning situation should be valued. In this sense, there are no passive learners in the eyes of the constructivists. Finally, learners construct their own knowledge through the combination of their past and new experiences or information.

As a constructivist teacher, your classroom environment encourages student autonomy and initiative. That is, you respect students’ ideas and thoughts and encourage them to develop their own intellectual perspectives. Also, you create a dialogue with your students and allow them to do the same with other students so that they will be able to present their thoughts about issues in the classroom.

  1. Existentialism

The word is from existence and that forms the basis of this philosophy. Here the individual is considered to be responsible for him/herself. The individual has to define himself/herself or be defined by other people. As such the existentialist believes in only what the individual defined for him/herself whether it is right, wrong, true, false, beautiful, ugly, and many more. Thus, the individual is the only one who determines what is right or wrong for him/herself.

If you are an existentialist, you only serve as a facilitator to your students. Thus, your students decide what they need to learn but under your guidance and facilitation. You will consider your students differently as there is no one learning outcome that is appropriate to all your students.

In essence, you help your students to find appropriate materials to study. So, your students do different things and study different subjects/topics at the same time. Therefore, your role is to supervise their study until the expected learning outcomes are met.

  1. Social Reconstructionism

Proponents of this philosophy believe that society has to be changed. They believe that the school provides the environment for society to be changed. Their belief is based on the current problems in the world. So, schools are the agents of transforming this world according to social reconstructionists.

How does the class of a social reconstructionist look like? Students are allowed to do different activities when studying the expected subjects/topics. This classroom is like that of the existentialist. This class encourages students to study and analyze the various aspect of the topic/subject. This philosophy encourages service and experiential learning. With this, students and schools work hard to provide solutions to the community’s problems as they experienced and felt.

Social reconstructionist philosophy can be a very powerful tool for transforming our society. It is especially so if it is combined with other philosophies like progressivism and essentialism.

  1. The Eclectic Approach

Some people tend to believe in some aspects of some philosophies and other aspects of other philosophies. With this, they try to combine these bits and pieces of beliefs into one philosophy. These forms of philosophies are referred to as the eclectic approaches to educational philosophy.

If you are eclectic in your approach, you will likely pick portions of several philosophies that conform with what you believe. Your belief is that these portions of the different philosophies are the best and can help tackle educational issues in our society.

Why Philosophy of Education is Important?

 All along you might be thinking of why we are struggling to understand the philosophy of education of an individual or an institution. Well, we stand to gain some of the following when we fully decipher the meaning and the various approaches to the philosophy of education:

1. Have you ever imagined the struggle of a visually impaired person without his/her white cane or a guide? I think you will tell me life will be difficult for such a person to an extent. This is the scenario of a teacher who doesn’t have a philosophy of education. Here, what I want you to understand is that our philosophy of education serves as a roadmap for us to effectively teach our students. Is it possible to teach something effectively if you don’t know why and how to teach it? I guess your answer is no.

2. It helps you to properly understand your students. Your knowledge in the philosophy of education will help you understand the nature of your students, why, and how they behave. Based on that you will adapt your classroom environment and your lessons to meet their needs. This is extremely essential for effective education.

3. Teacher shapes society. Remember the teacher plays a major part in shaping our society. This is because the individuals taught by a teacher grow to become key members of society. Therefore, a knowledge of the education philosophy will guide the teacher to choose appropriate philosophy that will work better for the growth of our society.

4. It makes teachers teach good values and ethics. The study of the education philosophy will equip the teacher with the needed values and ethics of the society that are essential. With this, the teacher will transmit these values to the younger ones. Hence the students will grow up to responsible.

5. It teaches teachers not to be judgmental. Teachers learn to be culturally, racially, and class savvy. This encourages the teacher to be aware of the numerous differences among the different students’ groups. By doing so, you understand how and why they behave the way they do. This prevents you from being judgmental in treating your students.

Classroom Management and Philosophy of Education

Are they related at all? If yes, how are they related? I think these questions might be running through your mind when you saw the title. Yes, of course, they are related. And their relationship is necessary to be forgotten. But most classroom texts fail to highlight it as much.

In the classroom management continuum, one’s philosophy of education is highly valued. Why this? This is because it is the number one thing that provides a theoretical guide to the teacher in the process. This paves way for the teacher to follow through with the entire process.

Your education philosophy will help you to choose an appropriate classroom management philosophy. Also, your institution’s educational philosophy is necessary for you when selecting a philosophy in managing your students.


From the above, it is noted that your education philosophy is essential for you to carry out effective classroom management. This is because it will guide you to select the appropriate classroom management philosophy that gives the model and strategies to apply to manage your students. In going forward, let’s ask ourselves the following questions;

  1. what is your philosophy of education?
  2. What are some of the approaches available to help you choose a reliable and effective education philosophy?
  3. How does your philosophy of education, if any, help you in your classroom management?  


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