Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 13 November 2011 The role of a Child’s Needs, Wants and Interests in Determining the Curriculum The topic of child education is very contentious because there are sentiments attached from all quarters of the society…
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Teachers are asked to follow certain procedures or teach certain topics. There is readjustment in schools from admission criteria to the marking system. In such an environment it is natural to ask questions that deal with the content of education and not methods. What should be taught and who should decide it. Should it be the government, parents or the children themselves? The question that is discussed here is whether a child’s needs and interests should determine the syllabus. At first look this question looks a bit odd because it is based on the assumption that children are mature enough to guide their own education. But what looks as an assumption is actually a vague hint at the child-centered theories that exist in modern philosophy of education. These theories believe that any education that is not child-centered is not in fact education at all (Barrow, 116) I believe that a child’s needs, wants and interests shouldn’t determine the syllabus. But in this essay I will look at both sides of the issue. I will provide reasons behind this argument. There are many theorists who believe that the children shouldn’t be trained but instead they should be nourished. But I believe that both training and nourishment are required. Rousseau discovered that Children’s mental capabilities and ways of looking at things were quite distinct from those of adults. He said that people need to recognize that children were mentally different and unique. In his book Social Contract he said that all men are born free. I agree with Rousseau but don’t believe that a child is completely free from any restriction (Chandra, 90). Children may be unique but I don’t agree with Rousseau’s line of thinking. Even George Bernard Shaw said that this was ‘‘the most flagrant lie ever told by a sane man.'' I think that the child-centered theories have become extremist in their claims about children being able to decide right curriculum for themselves. Earlier there was a dearth of philosophy of education. Now we can rest on the findings of Piaget and other researchers. But this opulence of literature on child education wasn’t always present. For a long time the only relevant theories came from a pragmatist philosopher called John Dewey. Dewey had a huge stature in United States and his personal influence led formation of tradition of philosophy of education influenced by his viewpoints. Their views are in sharp contrast to the subject-centered theories that existed before this new debate on education. Before this the education system was formed on the Christian belief of fallibility of man and his salvation through service of the God (Hastings, 587). Because of this thinking a child was an evil soul and hence it needed discipline in order to be saved from the sins. This view is completely different from the child-centered views who uphold that a child’s interest should be a beacon for his student life. The Christian view of child needing authority was flawed for various reasons. It ignored two factors: the sinfulness and fallibility of those in authority, and the necessity for a mutual responsibility between teacher and pupil for the conduct of the educational process. This mutuality is necessary for proper communication. Child-centered theorists such as A.S. Neill believe that a child’s nature is intrinsically good. They believe that a child has an innate wisdom and realism (Neill, 200). Here we see diametrically opposite views on the innate quality of children. It is the adults who
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