Monday, May 23, 2011


John Dewey’s educational philosophy initially started out with the main aim of ensuring the educational system was focused on promoting democracy and peace. This initial philosophy was based on his belief that democracy as a participatory system of government was the best model for the positive growth of the individual and the society in general.

The breaking out of World War 1 made Dewey see the destruction war could bring to the society. While his earlier philosophy of education for democracy was key to promoting peace, he now started seeing the need for further expanding the perspective of education to include a more transnational outlook that would not be bound by a narrow nationalistic patriotism.
The key points of Dewey’s educational philosophy are as follows:
DEMOCRACY AND EDUCATION: John Dewey advocated for the democratization of the educational system to allow the incorporation of students into all aspects of school life. By allowing students an opportunity to participate in the various processes, the administrators, teacher and parents will have an opportunity to learn about perspective. By so doing, teachers and administrators will be able to formulate and implement the various strategies with a better knowledge of how the students see things.
On the other hand, a democratized approach to schooling is more likely to ensure student engagement in the various learning activities. This is because by seeing their inputs being integrated into the processes, there is a high tendency to awaken a sense of responsibility and commitment.

For example, during my secondary school days, there was a Students’ Representative Committee which was made up of Class Prefects from all the classes, two teachers and the Vice Principal (Admin). Class Prefects were usually elected in the classes through a Voting process. The SRC met every fortnight, we thus had an opportunity to discuss various issues as brought up by the students, and the authorities also had a platform for interacting with the student population through their representatives. It was a very successful formula, because we, the students, had an avenue for airing our views on different issues in the school through our representatives and this also afforded the school authorities a means of knowing how the students felt. Because, the members of the Committee were elected representatives of the students, the authorities, apart from learning the views of the students, were also able to send better explanations on decisions taken.

This democratized approach to schooling has really always stood out in my mind as a way of ensuring better understanding between the students and the schools administrators and this led to an environment of peaceful understanding and coexistence in the school.

Dewey believed that the school system should be built around the goal of using the school as a preparatory environment for students to acquire skills and knowledge that will enable them understand real world issues and how to respond to them positively. Thus leaning activities and the school environment should be designed to guide students to learn effective interpersonal communication skills which will make them well prepared to contribute to life in a democratic world as they grow.

PEACE EDUCATION: Though Dewey’s educational philosophy initially focused mainly on using the educational system to train students to imbibe democratic ideals for peaceful coexistence; the massive destruction he witnessed during World War 1 made him realize that his initial philosophy seemed limited in scope. It was limited only to building patriotic citizens in a democratic nation. He now saw a greater need for expanding the patriotism being promoted to encompass the wider world.

He proffered that History and Geography be given more prominence in schools to allow students acquire more knowledge about events of the past, and understand the relevance of these past events on the problems of the present and their possible impact on the future.

He further postulated that a good understanding of events of the past and their effects on the present will enable students be more prepared to tackle problems of the future. A good knowledge of geography will make the students understand the diverse cultures, habits and occupations of the various peoples of the world.

With a good knowledge of History and Geography, Dewey believed students will be better able to look at their world from a wider perspective. They ill be able to understand the relationship between the past an present, and be able to use this understanding to build a future that will have its foundations well grounded on lessons learnt from the past and present. By understanding the diverse cultures that exist in the world, they’d learn to understand the interwoven relationships that join the inhabitants of the world.

By making our students understand the interdependent nature of all Earth’s inhabitants

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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.