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Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.
- John Dewey
John Dewey (1859-1952)
The Father of Progressive Philosophy in Education
John Dewey was the most significant educational thinker of his era and, many would argue, of the 20th century. As a philosopher, social reformer and educator, he changed fundamental approaches to teaching and learning. His ideas about education sprang from a philosophy of pragmatism and were central to the Progressive Movement in schooling.

Dewey's concept of education put a premium on meaningful activity in learning and participation in classroom democracy. Unlike earlier models of teaching, which relied on authoritarianism and rote learning, progressive education asserted that students must be invested in what they were learning. Dewey argued that curriculum should be relevant to students' lives. He saw learning by doing and development of practical life skills as crucial to children's education. Some critics assumed that, under Dewey's system, students would fail to acquire basic academic skills and knowledge. Others believed that classroom order and the teacher's authority would disappear.

To Dewey, the central ethical imperative in education was democracy. Every school, as he wrote in 'The School and Society', must become "an embryonic community life, active with types of occupations that reflect the life of the larger society and permeated throughout with the spirit of art, history and science. When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious."

About Progressive Philosophy in Education

John Dewey believed that: All education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This educational process has two sides - one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following. Of these two sides, the psychological is the basis.

The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences. The teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life.

To Dewey, the focus in education was democracy & hence he believed that learners must adapt to each other and to their environment. Schools should emphasize the subject matter of social experience. All learning is dependent on the context of place, time, and circumstance. Different cultural and ethnic groups learn to work cooperatively and contribute to a democratic society. The ultimate purpose is the creation of a new social order. Character development is based on making group decisions in light of consequences.

Some principles of a Progressive approach to education are -

Progressivists believe that individuality, progress, and change are fundamental to one's education.
Believing that people learn best from what they consider most relevant to their lives, progressivists center their curricula (syllabus content) on the needs, experiences, interests, and abilities of students.
Progressivist teachers try making school interesting and useful by planning lessons that provoke curiosity.
In a progressivist school, students are actively learning.
Progressivists believe that education should be a process of ongoing growth, not just a preparation for becoming an adult.
Progressive teaching methods focus on hands-on problem solving, experimenting, and projects, often having students work in groups. Curriculum should bring the disciplines together to focus on solving problems in an interdisciplinary way.
Rather than passing down organized bodies of knowledge to new learners, Progressivists believe that learners should apply their knowledge to real situations through experimental inquiry.
This prepares students for citizenship, daily living, and future careers.
Books by John Dewey for further reading:
1. Experience and Education
2. Democracy and Education
3. The School and Society
4. Moral Principles in Education
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