Liberate the caring and lovable child

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
In the Wonder Years supplement on the primary strategy, Neil Hawkes considers philosophers' ideas in developing a teaching and learning framework (TES, March 19, "Pick your philosopher"). This, he says, is a radical idea for Government, which has not seen educational philosophy as a priority for some years, writes Nadine Vaillant Hill.

However, the purpose, motivation, commitment and practice of many teachers has continued to be based on such theories and convictions. Many have been quietly working to develop and maintain the "moral process" despite feeling somewhat in the wilderness in the midst of strategies focusing on the acquisition of subject knowledge and skills to raise attainment.

It may be to compensate for this that many schools in Oxfordshire and elsewhere have been developing a values-based approach alongside the initiatives to raise standards. Advocates of this approach maintain that it contributes to the pupils' achievement. Such an approach - which Neil Hawkes has been instrumental in developing - reflects many of the ideas of the thinkers presented in his article, such as Maria Montessori and Friedrich Froebel.

The article asked which of the philosophers should inform learning and teaching. The obvious answer is that all contribute to the development of a premise for creating the education experience of our children. We should choose not only from past philosophers but from the work of current thinkers and researchers who contribute to our understanding of how children develop. We should consider not only how society is but how we would wish it to be.

In the micro-world of education, the school, the experience of children and adults cannot be separated. It is not only children in the wrong environment who may develop into dysfunctional adults as suggested by Montessori, but adults in the wrong environment become stressed, lose self-esteem and confidence, and become dysfunctional.

By nurturing the growth of competent, caring, loving and loveable people so we experience exactly those qualities in ourselves. What could be a more rewarding purpose of teaching?

Nadine Vaillant Hill is a deputy head and ICT co-ordinator in a primary school in Oxfordshire

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