Non-traditional education, unprecedented times | BusinessWorld

Progressive, non-traditional schools emphasize experiential learning and holistic development, with the approach varying on the institution’s philosophy. 

By Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo

Progressive, non-traditional education for children is becoming more attractive to parents amid COVID-19, said George Carey, founder and chief executive officer of The Family Room Strategic Consulting Group, a research and brand strategy consultancy firm. 

According to firm’s Passion Points Study, a quarterly consumer survey across 14 markets, parents believe that life skills such as determination, confidence, and creativity are better predictors of their children’s success over excellence in academic fields like math and science.

The latter is often the focus of traditional schools, wherein students are lectured in classroom settings and assessed by their knowledge of academic subjects. Some members of the academe have criticized this “one-size-fits-all” approach, noting that students have different ways of learning.

On the other hand, progressive, non-traditional schools emphasize experiential learning and holistic development, with the approach varying on the institution’s philosophy. 

In the Philippines, the Manila Waldorf School focuses on developing a child’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual faculties based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher who advocated “working from the ‘hands’ (physical) through the ‘heart’ (emotional and spiritual) to the ‘mind’ (intellectual).” Meanwhile, the Raya School runs a discovery-based, play-oriented curriculum that inculcates a deep sense of the country’s heritage. 

“Parents don’t want their kid to be forced into a square hole if they’re a round peg. They want the hole to be conformed to their child,” said Mr. Carey during a session in All That Matters 2020, an online convention.

Other findings from the study show that parents are looking for educational content that will preserve and restore their children’s sense of optimism and belief in the future. There is also a growing interest in preserving and celebrating family traditions. According to Mr. Carey, this category shot up by 125% in the past six months after a five-year decline among their interviewees.

“We have got a future which is very uncertain, very murky, and for many parents, very dark. As a consequence, these millennial parents have suddenly gone from having this love affair with the future to a love affair with the past,” he said.  

While this seems to paint a negative forecast for the future, hope may be found in the children themselves who were found to have a strong sense of fairness and righteousness. The study’s six-year-old interviewees showed concern for the environment and literacy rates and a drive to accept other children coming from different backgrounds. 

“This [the world’s injustices] has made the kids understand that the world’s unfair, but that they have a real role to play in righting that ship,” said Mr. Carey.

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