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Philosophy of Education

The philosophy of education refers to any one of the educational philosophies that promote a specific type or vision of education. “The philosophy of education is the philosophical study of education and its problems … its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy."¹>

The philosophy of education might study what constitutes upbringing and education, the values received through educational practices, and the relationship between educational theory and practice.

The philosophy of education is usually housed in departments or colleges of education.¹ Although there is overlap, the philosophy of education should not be merged with educational theory.¹ It should also not be confused with philosophy education, which is the practice of teaching and learning the subject of philosophy.¹

There are eight philosophies of education: idealism, realism, scholasticism, pragmatism, analytic, existentialism, critical theory, and postmodernism.

Idealism is the idea that the individual is best served by being subordinated to a just society. Some supporters of idealism include Plato, Immanuel Kant, and Georg Hegel. Idealism advocates removing children from their parents and raising them by the state and coaxing answers out of students instead of giving them information.

Aristotle, Avicenna, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau have supported realism. Realism considers human nature, habit, and reason to be equally important in education. Thus repetition is a key tool to develop good habits. It is believed that a teacher should lead students instead of asking them for their opinions.

Pragmatism argues that the authoritarian knowledge approach of modern traditional education is too concerned with delivering knowledge and not enough with understanding students’ actual experiences.² Supporters of pragmatism include John Dewey, William James, and William Heard Kilpatrick.

Critical theory, pioneered by Brazilian Paulo Freire, argues against the “banking concept” where a student is viewed as an empty account to be filled by a teacher.²

Martin Heidegger and Michael Foucault support postmodernism. Postmodernism supports the movement towards higher education. It also believes that teaching and research in the university should be unified.³




1. Noddings, Nel (1995). Philosophy of Education. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p1.

2. Neil, J (2005). John Dewey, the Modern Father of Experiential Education.

3. Thomson, Iain (2002). Heidegger on Ontological Education. In Peters, Michael A. Heidegger, Education, and Modernity. New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 141-142.

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