Progressive education: A comprehensive guide for all parents!

Progressive education: A comprehensive guide for all parents!

How is progressive education different from traditional education? And how can it benefit your child?

We all hope for the best possible education for our children but with the many options out there, things can get confusing. Should you settle on a more traditional approach to education? Or a more forward-thinking, modern approach? This article will focus on progressivism in education today, which is a pedagogy that challenges the classic system of education.

What is Progressive Education?


Progressivism in education today (as we know it) had its origins in Europe. Among the initial group of people who explored this frontier was Maria Montessori. She is famous for establishing the “montessori method” that gave birth to Montessori schools all around the world.

Between the years 1700 and 1900, many key European thinkers were responsible for changing ‘traditional’ educational systems. By around 1774, a few experimental progressive schools were set in Europe. They continued to expand and grow in popularity well into the late 1800s.

Meanwhile, ideas of progressive education also reached the United States, where it developed separately. After 1900, these ideas—in particular those contributed by John Dewey—combined with European ideas to form progressivism in education today.


Progressive education is a response to traditional educational systems. People supporting progressive education thought that long-established rules about education were restrictive and too formal. 

progressivism in education today

Traditional education systems emphasise taking tests to evaluate a student’s worth. | Image Source: Stock Photo

Unlike education which involves absorbing facts and fully comprehending pre-discovered knowledge, progressivism in education today focuses on experience, instead.

The main idea was that kids become proficient in their actions when they did things tied to learning.  Here are some of the main tenets of progressive education:

  • education is about developing a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual aspects.
  • school isn’t a fixed institution. Instead, it’s an experimental area where children are involved in learning by doing things.
  • in the classroom, everyone’s opinion matters.
  • creativity and the arts help to nurture children in a journey of discovery and independent thought.

Simply put, progressivism in education today seeks to educate students on the process of thinking, instead of just regurgitating facts.

In addition, progressivism in education today also challenges the idea that exams are an accurate gauge of an educated child.

Active participation in projects is the core of progressive education, which aims to help children learn by experience.

Learning by experience helps to maximise what the student absorbs in limited amounts of time. By being involved in a task which calls for the application of knowledge, students are able to better comprehend what they’re doing.

Characteristics of Progressive Education vs Traditional Education

Unlike traditional education, progressive education has a variety of differences. Notably, these differences are almost the opposite of the methods of traditional education.

We’ve summarised the key traits of traditional and progressive education below so that you can compare and contrast both of them:

In Traditional Education:

  • Students sit obediently and memorize knowledge from authentic sources.
  • Parents don’t take part in educating their children.
  • Community is a different entity from school and is only involved for funding grants.
  • People decide how the school is run via a hierarchy of power, and executed via administration.
  • External criteria is used to assess students’ performance, and is the basis for the curriculum.
  • Students learn in a narrow-minded fashion by compiling knowledge and being able to use skills effectively.
  • Talks, assignments and textbooks transmit knowledge.
  • The main direction is straight, and mostly centers around correct responses.
  • Subjects and topics, like language and mathematics, are distinct categories.
  • Students learn skills carefully and attentively, and are end-points.
  • Normal standards from other sources are used in tests to evaluate students, after which they are ranked.
  • Success means rising above the competition in terms of regurgitating information from memory in a particular time and place.
  • Mastery over language and mathematical prowess is the main gauge of intellectual ability.
  • School is a compulsory duty and students have to find ways to cope.

Whereas in Progressive education:

  • School isn’t a phase; it is one section of life.
  • Students proactively participate in tasks, solve problems, and plan ahead.
  • Parents are foremost teachers. They affix goals, plan ahead, and aid students in their education.
  • Community is another part of class.
  • All staff participate in the decision making process.
  • The graduates’ aims, journey and core beliefs sets the curriculum.
  • Learning is multi-dimensional, like a spiral. The objective is to widen and deepen the scope of learning.
  • Playing, experiencing different situations and socializing with others all enable students to gain knowledge.
  • The main questions which children ask are the main directive for what they learn.
  • Students understand how subjects relate to one another because they’re merged.
  • Skills are connected to learning material and are tools.
  • Evaluation systems are based on yardsticks, appears in varied forms, and based on progress.
  • Success means learning and gradually practicing what students have learnt by cooperating with others.
  • Intellect is viewed as a variety of themes, including artistic pursuits, and is gauged by resolving real-world problems.
  • School is an exciting and enjoyable portion of life.

The teacher’s role: A key difference

progressivism in education today

Progressivism in education today emphasizes teachers as facilitators who know the students on a personal level. | Image Source: Stock Photo

One of the key differences in progressivism in education today compared to traditional education is the teacher’s role.

Normally, teachers would address topics by talking about them and drawing symbols on the whiteboard behind them. Students rely on them for knowledge.

Not so much in progressivism in education today. A progressive teacher is more of a coordinator. He or sits at a table with a maximum of eight children, assisting them in thinking and challenging the assumptions of the world.

There are two main advantage of sitting in small groups, where the teacher knows everyone.

Firstly, it provides a safe space for discussion, such that even the shyest or even weakest student has the chance to speak their mind.

Secondly, teachers can tap into the insecurities and worries of these children, and thereby work on their issues on a personal level.

  • It allows students to become exposed to real world situations. Progressivism in education today helps students master a couple of important skills needed once they pursue their careers. These include cooperating with teams, thinking critically before doing things, using creative means to resolve problems and being able to contribute independently. All of these skills will help them navigate through University education without parental intervention, and even once they enter the workforce after graduating.
  • Progressivism in education today will also foster a passion for learning new things. This is a valuable attitude as it makes school a part of their life, not a ‘phase’ during their child years that stops once they enter adulthood. Why? The only constant in this world is change, and the world, as well as our desires will continue to change. To adapt, students will need to have a thirst for knowledge, even after they’ve grown up. Students who become proactive learners with the ability to solve issues in a team setting or on their own are well equipped to handle additional challenges without fear.

Application for school year 2019-2020 has already started. Have you picked the right school for your child? Below is a list of preschools in Metro Manila.

References: Encyclopaedia Britannica, ThoughtCo.,, Street Directory

Also read:

Preschool Guide 2018: Directory ng paaralan at tuition fees ng preschools sa Southern District ng Metro Manila

Preschool Guide 2018: Mga paaralan at tuition fees ng preschools sa Eastern District ng Metro Manila

Preschool Guide 2018: Directory ng paaralan at tuition fees ng preschools sa Northern District ng Metro Manila

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