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What are Some Different Philosophies on Education?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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For hundreds of years there have been varying philosophies on education, based on various models of study. Plato and Aristotle are of course amongst the earliest theorists to develop philosophies about education. In modern times, parents, students, and educators continue to explore the different philosophies of education and how they impact learning. While each education philosophy has its own belief in the driving forces behind it and no one way has been proven the most effective, there are vast differences and similarities amongst them. While the following is by no means an exhaustive list of educational philosophies, these are but a few that are in wide practice today.


The Montessori method is one of the most widely known philosophies on education. Developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, educator, and philosopher, the Montessori method is used in both public and private schools around the world. Montessori based her education philosophies on several key factors including educating children as the natural learners that they are by providing a “child-sized” environment for learning and self-guided, self-corrected education.


John Dewey was an American philosopher and psychologist whose educational philosophy centers around pragmatism and the method of “learning by doing.” Dewey felt that science played an important role in education and that critical thinking was more important than memorization of mere facts. Dewey is often credited with laying the foundation for standards-based education.


One of the more modern philosophies on education is homeschooling – a concept that didn’t become mainstream until the early 1990s. John Caldwell Holt, a teacher and author, was the leading advocate for homeschooling, or a similar method known as “unschooling.” Holt believed that learning could not be forced to occur in a classroom, but rather children should be taught and enabled to learn through life experiences. Holt authored several books in the mid 1970s that many people viewed as a controversial opposition to compulsory schooling.

The Inquiry Method

Neil Postman, an author and teacher, poses a very specific method of teaching called the inquiry method. Of all the various philosophies on education, Postman’s is one that is widely respected by many. The inquiry method centers around student-driven learning by limiting the number of statements a teacher makes and encouraging students to ask and find answers to their own questions. The theory behind Postman’s inquiry method is to have children learn by building what they don’t know on to what they already know.

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Discussion Comments
By anon278303 — On Jul 05, 2012

I definitely think that, for me at least, it helps to learn by doing. I like when I can go and apply what I'm learning about. I have also noticed that I learn better when I keep things simple. You complicate the learning process too much, and I end up zoning out.

I think that's why I liked the simple training programs they would do at work as well. I wonder how I would have done with that program?

By anon145285 — On Jan 22, 2011

Sunny27, what you have said only exposes your fear of making changes to traditional education. For starters, Montessori is not unstructured and the educational results are, as a whole, above those of traditional methods.

The vast majority of research demonstrates Montessori educated children make successful transitions to traditional schooling.

Please post what research you have read to the contrary or the assumption can only be that you are, intentionally or unintentionally, propagating false and misleading information.

By comfyshoes — On Jul 04, 2010

Sunny27- I agree. I believe structure is necessary especially in the early years of a child’s education.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 04, 2010

While I do agree that children learn by engaging exercises, I totally disagree with the unschooling and Montessori methods of education.

Unschooling, as the term states refers to an unstructured way of educating children. Children learn what is relevant for the day without retaining significant knowledge. The Montessori program is child-led, and while the educational setting is generally aesthetically pleasing, the educational results are mixed.

Reading, writing, and mathematics should be taught daily and in a specific format, especially in the earlier years. Unschooling does a disservice to children, and I feel this method should be avoided.

Many children come out of Montessori programs and have difficulty adjusting to a standard school format. A strong educational foundation is necessary for future academic success.

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