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Philosophies of Education

by Ron Kurtus (revised 26 February 2001)

There is a philosophy behind every school system, based on the views and values of the educators, as well as the society that is sponsoring the education.

The philosophy starts with the view of reality and definitions of truth and goodness. From this, the mission of the schools and the emphasis of the instruction are established.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Education philosophies

There are five basic philosophies of education


This is a very conservative and inflexible philosophy of education. It is based on the view that reality comes from fundamental fixed truths-especially related to God. It believes that people find truth through reasoning and revelation and that goodness is found in rational thinking.

As a result, schools exist to teach reason and God's will. Students are taught to reason through structured lessons and drills.


Idealism believes in refined wisdom. It is based on the view that reality is a world within a person's mind. It believes that truth is in the consistency of ideas and that goodness is an ideal state to strive to attain.

As a result, schools exist to sharpen the mind and intellectual processes. Students are taught the wisdom of past heroes.


Realism believes in the world as it is. It is based on the view that reality is what we observe. It believes that truth is what we sense and observe and that goodness is found in the order of the laws of nature.

As a result, schools exist to reveal the order of the world and universe. Students are taught factual information.


Experimentalism believes that things are constantly changing. It is based on the view that reality is what you experience. It believes that truth is what works right now and that goodness comes from group decisions.

As a result, schools exist to discover and expand the society we live in. Students study social experiences and solve problems.


Existentialism believes in the personal interpretation of the world. It is based on the view that the individual defines reality, truth and goodness.

As a result, schools exist to aid children in knowing themselves and their place in society.

Students learn what they want and discuss subjects freely.

Which philosophy to use?

Which philosophy should be used to educate the students? It seems that a combination of these seem appropriate. If you got locked in one philosophy, it seems that the view of the world and the ability to change are restricted.


The basic philosophies of education are Perennialism, Idealism, Realism, Experimentalism and Existentialism. They are based on a view of society and what is important, as well as political beliefs to a degree.

A combination of several of these philosophies or approaches may be the best route to take.

Be concerned about the needs of others, and you will succeed yourself

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