Unit II: Philosophies and Educational Implications

2.1. Idealism

2.2. Naturalism

2.3. Pragmatism

2.4. Humanism

2.5. Implications of Educational Philosophies in special education










Philosophy of education is the branch of applied or practical philosophy concerned with the nature and aims of education and the philosophical problems arising from educational theory and practice.

Dr. K.M. Chetty in his paper “Philosophy o f Education in the Changing World Order” wrote, “in the philosophy o f education, both philosophers and educators who come together should have a common concern and commitment about the nature o f education that is required to uphold the dignity o f human beings. They should keep in their mind the different values that go into safeguarding the whole humanity. It is with this broader perspective that both philosophers and educators join together to build a philosophy of education." Therefore the chief activity of the philosophy of education is to bring out its nature of education and the values which safeguard the whole humanity.

2.1. Idealism

It is oldest system of philosophy known to man. Its origin goes back to ancient India in the east, and to Plato in the west. Its basic viewpoint stresses the human spirit as the most important element in life. The human spirit is most elements in life, the universe is essentially nonmaterial in its ultimate nature. Idealism is concerned with supremacy of mind and self, and views man and universe in terms of spirit or mind. Matter or objective may be the projection or creation of mind, but ultimately real is the idea behind it. The physical world is ephemeral and can be changed through the ideas or imagination of man. Plato, the greatest philosopher of all ages, claimed that the ultimate reality consists of ideas. Plato and his teacher Socrates conceived ideas as the basis of their philosophy. Socrates, an idealistic philosopher placed importance on question-answer and dialogue as the method of acquiring information or gaining knowledge whereas Plato emphasized on logical reasoning as the method of gaining knowledge.

Idealism: Plato- father of idealism

Definition: System of thought that emphasizes the importance of mind, soul or spirit. Idealism believes in refined wisdom.

Principles of idealism:

·        Presence of universal mind.

·        Regards man as a spiritual being.

·        The world of ideas and values are superior than the materialistic world.

·        The real knowledge is perceived in mind.

Idealism & aims of education

·        Self-realization

·        Exaltation of personality through self-realization

·        Universal education

·        Development of inventive and creative powers

·        Conservation, promotion and transmission of cultural heritages

·        Bringing out or the enrichment of the cultural environment

·        Development of moral sense

·        Cultivation of spiritual values.

Teaching methods

·        Lecture- discussion method

·        Excursion

·        Question method

·        Project method

2.2. Naturalism

It is oldest philosophy in western world. The naturalists view the world that we live in is made up of the matters, and believe that the material world, the world of nature, is the real world. In other word nature is the source of knowledge. The human life is the part of nature and is therefore controlled by external laws of nature. In fact, the essence of all things is nature. The universe and man are the results of physical, mechanical and biological forces acting upon them, which is called natural laws. The process of growth and development in man was the result of force of energy prevailed in nature. Man’s natural endowment, including his instincts and emotion are the guiding force of all his conducts. The theory of struggle put forward by Charles Darwin implicates that the aim of education is to equip individual to struggle for existence and thus to ensure his survival. It should help the learner to adjust physically and mentally to ever changing circumstances of life. Education should aim at developing the child joyful, rational, balanced, purposeful and mature person in order for him to survive.

Naturalism: Rousseau & Aristotle

Definition: is a system denying anything in reality that has supernatural significance. Truth can be discovered only through nature.


·        Child centered education

·        Education as the natural development of the child’s power and capacities

·        Negative education in early childhood

·        Education should be based on child's psychology

·        The role of teacher should be that of a guide

Naturalism and methods of teaching

·        Learning by doing

·        Play way method

·        Observation and experimentation

·        Self education or self-effort naturalism and methods of teaching

2.3. Pragmatism

Pragmatism adopt a midway between idealism and naturalism. The word pragmatism derived from Greek word “pragma” means action. Pragmatism is otherwise known as instrumentalism or functionalism. Since emphasis was given to learning by doing and learning by experience, it is also called experimentalism According to Ross, pragmatism is essentially a human philosophy maintaining that man creates his own values in course of activity, that reality is still in making and awaits its part of completion from the future. This definition emphasis on creation through continuous activity and states that certain values are essential for growth and development of individual.

Pragmatism: John Dewey, William James, Charles Saunders Pierce

Definition: according to Ross, pragmatism is essentially a humanistic philosophy maintaining that man creates his own values in course of activity, that reality is still, in making and awaits its part of completion from the future.

Principles of pragmatism

·        Man is considered as essentially a biological and social organism.

·        Knowledge should be experimentally verified and it should be useful to the learner. Pragmatism has faith in man's capacity to shape his destiny.

·        There are no absolute values, all values are relative. What works as useful becomes a value.

·        Only those theories which can work in practical situations are true.

·        Pragmatist is more concerned with the present and immediate future.

·        Pragmatism accepts only the knowledge which is empirical, i.e., which can be experienced at sensory level.

·        Only those ideas which can be realized in life are real.

Pragmatism and methods of teaching

·        Principle of progressive learning

·        Principle of learning by doing

·        Principle of integration

Pragmatism and aims of education

·        Harmonious development of the individual

·        Continuous experience

·        Social efficiency

2.4. Humanism

The roots of humanism are found in the thinking of Erasmus (1466-1536), who attacked the religious teaching and thought prevalent in his time to focus on free inquiry and rediscovery of the classical roots from Greece and Rome. Erasmus believed in the essential goodness of children, that humans have free will, moral conscience, the ability to reason, aesthetic sensibility, and religious instinct. He advocated that the young should be treated kindly and that learning should not be forced or rushed, as it proceeds in stages. Humanism was developed as an educational philosophy by Rousseau (1712-1778) and Pestalozzi, who emphasized nature and the basic goodness of humans, understanding through the senses, and education as a gradual and unhurried process in which the development of human character follows the unfolding of nature. Humanists believe that the learner should be in control of his or her own destiny. Since the learner should become a fully autonomous person, personal freedom, choice, and responsibility are the focus. The learner is self-motivated to achieve towards the highest level possible. Motivation to learn is intrinsic in humanism.

Humanism: Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Malcolm Knowles

Definition: An approach in study, philosophy, or practice that focuses on human values and concerns.

A system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth.



1) Students' learning should be self-directed.

2) Schools should produce students who want and know how to learn.

3) The only form of meaningful evaluation is self-evaluation.

4) Feelings, as well as knowledge, are important in the learning process.

5) Students learn best in a nonthreatening environment.

Classroom implication


·        Curriculum is up to the students. They learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it. It is based on students will know what lessons will be useful to them and which is just a waste of time.

·         as long as students have a passion or drive to learn this theory becomes easy for teachers.

·        Students that don’t have that drive to learn will either need to be pushed by a teacher or parent or try another teaching theory, because if students don’t want to learn they won’t.


·        Teachers would almost guide students as they set off into their own educational journey to learn.

·        Facilitating students would be the main role of teachers. Also being careful not to force what to learn but rather force wanting to learn something on the student is genuinely interested in.

2.5. Implications of Educational Philosophies in special education

Educational implications of idealism

Idealism considers student as an individuals with inner potentials. Education should help the student to realize these potentials. Curriculum should consist of those knowledge and experiences which help the student to attained development. The teacher should impart essentials of knowledge and assist to develop moral and aesthetic values in the child. As said earlier, idealism stresses more on the spiritual development of the child.

Educational implications of naturalism

Applied to education, naturalism considers child as a gift of nature with potentialities for natural growth according to laws of nature. The child is an active individual capable of self- development. The aim of education is to develop the child as healthy and active personality in a natural setting. The growth process must be natural and real without any interference from outside. The powers of the child should be developed in natural ways by allowing the child to freely interact with the nature. The curriculum should provide concrete and real experiences in a natural context. The child should be exposed to a variety of sensory and physical activities. The child learns by interacting with nature. Morality and character learned directly with the help of natural consequences. Discipline is developed as a result of consequences of behavior of child. The teacher plays the role of guiding the child learning from nature.

Educational implication of pragmatism

Pragmatism trend in education is known as progressivism in education and the school based on programmatic ideas was known as progressive school. Pragmatism considers the learner as growing biological and social being ready to adjust to the environmental demands. The aim of education should be to prepare the child to become an effective member of community. It should also try to develop competencies in the child. Hence the curriculum should include those subjects and experience which are suitable to the child’s interest and needs. The curriculum should be develop an attitude of inquiry, facilitate artistic expression, encourage constructiveness and sustain interest in the child. Deway advocates “learning by doing”, which encourages the child to learn trough activities. Deway considers discipline as a function of the teaching- learning situation. If the learning is made joyful and interesting, there is no need to use external rewards and punishments. A pragmatic teacher helps in the ready-made forms , teacher should encourage the learner through active interaction with the learning situation.

Educational implication of humanism

Student-Centered Learning: Student-centered learning takes place when the teacher becomes a facilitator, taking the focus from herself as the bearer of knowledge. The student takes on an important role in this type of classroom. Lessons originate and develop from the interests of the student. The child is able to showcase his creativity in this type of open classroom, which increases self-esteem and a willingness to learn.

Emotional Support: A humanistic classroom is inclusive of everyone. This type of class seeks to support both individuality and diversity by finding the similarities among children. Lessons are developed not for the group, but for the individual. Diversified lessons give each child a chance to succeed and receive positive reinforcement. Each child knows how it feels to succeed, and stratification of students is eliminated. Each child learns at an individual pace without labels and stereotypes that can stigmatize.

Cooperative Learning: Cooperative learning lets children work together to find solutions to problems. Each child may have a specific role within the group to make use of his talents. The teacher supervises each group of about three or four students to answer questions and provide support. This type of learning allows the student to learn how to foster peer relationships, an important skill to carry throughout life.

Discovery Education: In discovery education, the teacher introduces a concept and gives the student freedom to discover her own path to learning more about the concept. This strategy supports the concept of multiple intelligences and intellectual diversity. Abstract learners may seek books and computers to research the concept. The interpersonal personality may seek out others to question for information on the topic.