The importance of progressive education: An overview

Progressive education refers to a practical way of learning rather than theoretical way of learning. Progressive education is an instructional movement which began in the late 19th century; it is still in existence in many advanced countries now. The term progressive was used for this mode of education because it is different from other forms of education. This mode of education prefers experiential form of learning over cramming of facts, because understanding the concept is far better than cramming it as it will only be forgotten later. Upon examination of teaching practices that were being used in the 19th century, one begins to understand the need of progressive education. All those people who support this style of education argue that children learn far better when they learn by doing rather than memorizing facts.
The common themes of progressive education: (a) Reduction in traditional authoritarianism of teacher. (b) Alternatives to dominant pedagogical form of class lesson. (c) Removal of harsh punishment and drill. (d) Pupil self-governance. (e) Dissolution of formal timetable and breaking down of subject barriers/curriculum integration. (f) Shift in curriculum emphasis from the ‘3Rs’ to creative and expressive activities.

Principles of Progressive Education: (1) Students should manage their conduct according to the social needs of the community rather than by arbitrary rules and be provided with opportunities for initiative and self-expression in an environment rich with interesting and freely available materials. (2) Student interest should be satisfied and developed through a) direct and indirect experiences with the world and its activities, b) application of knowledge and integration of subjects, and c) consciousness of achievement.(3) Teachers should be facilitators of small classes by encouraging student use of their senses; training students to observe and make judgments; mostly guiding students to use various sources of information, including lived experiences and books; providing support for student reasoning about acquired information; and expressing forceful conclusions reached logically. (4) Student assessment should not be limited to grades but should include both objective and subjective reports on the physical, mental, moral, and social attention on the all-important work of student development rather than simply teaching subject matter. (5) Health of the student should be the first priority of schools by providing adequate space for movement, good light and air, clean and well-ventilated buildings, and easy access to and frequent use of adequate playgrounds and the outdoors. (6) Parents and teachers should intelligently cooperate to provide as much of the natural interest and activities for practical experience, to include homemaking and healthful recreation for both boys and girls. All, if not most, student studying should be done at school, and extracurricular studies should be at school or home to dissipate unnecessary energy. Parents should know what the school is doing and why and ways to effectively cooperate; teachers should help parents develop a broad outlook on education and provide help by making school resources available. (7) The school should be a laboratory of new ideas—which, if warranted, are encouraged—and lead movements in education, combined with the best of the past, and added to the sum of educational knowledge, rather than schools being ruled by tradition alone.

This concept is also known as experiential learning. This mode of learning employs projects that allow students to learn by routine engagement with activities that actually put their learned knowledge to use every single day. Progressive learning helps students in developing skills that are actually needed for the real world, for example, a workplace, now when we work, we work as a team and perform tasks that require critical and analytical thinking, progressive education helps students in developing that skill-set which is required for performing well at a workplace.
Progressive education has an integrated curriculum which focuses on thematic units which later leads to a strong ability concerning problem solving and critical thinking. This type of learning focuses on group interactions and discussions which in turn lead to the development of quick on-your-feet thinking and social skills. Wherever the module of progressive education is followed, their teachers are concerned with helping students become not only good learners but also good people. Here, schooling isn’t only focused on academics; it is also focused on developing the child in a wholesome manner. One of the most attractive features of progressive learning is that they take kids seriously. As kids take part in designing the curriculum of the school, their active participation leads them to construct their own ideas rather than passive learning and absorbing new information. Progressive learning is focused on problems, projects and questions instead of endless lists of facts, skills, etc. The point is to invite students to create a deeper understanding about issues that matter and help them with solutions so that the problem can be solved from the inside out.

The main reason to choose a progressive school for their children is because the guardians think that meeting children’s needs must be preferred over preparing future employees. They have a desire to nourish their children with other virtues like curiosity, creativity, compassion, etc. all of which are essential to human life. Therefore, progressive education may be an unconventional source of learning but it has proved to be beneficial in the long-term for children because this type of approach towards academia challenges them to be better humans and civilized members of society. Progressive education focuses less on how a teacher prepares students for jobs and more on what students are passionate about and what critical thinking skills they can develop. Administrators who implement this style of education in their schools help students understand how they can be lifelong learners, constantly engaging with new ideas and solving new problems.

One of the benefits of progressive education is that teachers recognize and honour the creativity and passions of individual students. Educators do not simply teach students information and expect them to memorize it and get perfect scores on tests. Instead, they have their students engage in active hands-on learning through projects, experiments, and collaboration with peers. In this way, students can pursue topics and subjects they are passionate about. Proponents of progressive education believe that, under this model, students are more likely to develop a love of education and become lifelong learners. Students use critical thinking skills outside the classroom as they evaluate and re-evaluate their perspectives on real-world topics and issues. Today, progressive education is viewed as a pedagogical movement that emphasizes student-centred learning experiences and that incorporates aspects such as learning by doing, valuing diversity, integrated curriculum, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaborative learning, social responsibility, democracy, and lifelong learning. There is a tendency among the students of our country to memorize the content of the textbook without understanding it properly. As a result the purpose of the curriculum is disrupted and the mental development of the students is not done properly and at the right time in the proper process. Considering all these aspects, it is time to think deeply whether progressive education can be introduced in this country in this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Gazi Md. Abdur Rashid, Research Officer,
District Education Office (Secondary),