John Dewey, greatest of the pragmatists and generally recognized as the most outstanding philosopher his country has yet produced, made significant contributions to virtually every field of philosophy as well as tosuch other areas of inquiry as education and psychology. Active for 70 years as a scholar, he was a prolific writer publishing approximately fifty books and more than eight hundred articles. Many of these have been translated into various foreign languages.
Aims of Education
According to Dewey the aim of education is the development of child’s powers and abilities. Impossible to lay down any definite principle for a particular kind of development, because this development will differ from one child to the next, in conformity with the unique abilities of the individual. The educator should guide the child according to the abilities and powers he observes in it. It is better, in Dewey’s opinion, to leave the question of educational objectives unanswered. In general, the aim of education is to create an atmosphere inwhich the child gets an opportunity to be active in and contribute to the social awakening of the human race.From the pragmatic standpoint, education aims at creating social efficiency in the child. Man is a social being who must develop at all. For this reason, education must aim at creating social efficiency and skill.
Pragmatic education aims at instilling democratic values and ideals in the individual. Every individual must be given the freedom to develop his own desires and achieve his ambitions. Every individual must be equal to every other member of society. Such a society can be created only when there is no fundamental differencebetween the individual and collective interest. Education should create co-operation and harmony among individuals, instilling democratic values in school going children. In fact, the school itself is a miniature form of democratic society in which the child undergoes various forms of development, of which moral education and development is the most important. Morality can be developed through active participation, because suchparticipation in the activities of the school trains the child in shouldering responsibility.
Pragmatic education is basically practical inasmuch as it aims at preparing the individual for future life in such a manner that he can fulfill his requirements and achieve contentment. Dewey was critical of the contemporary modes of education because they tend to drive the child away from democratic life by givingadvantages to a small section of society. It also lays more stress on book or formal teaching than is really desirable. Hence Dewey laid the foundations of a progressive education in the form of a Progressive School,which aimed at establishing democratic values and developing the child’s personality.
Dewey believed that the educational process has two aspects- psychological and social.
1. Psychological : The curriculum and the method of education should be determined by the child’s instinctsand abilities. The child should be educated according to his interest and inclination. Education should be attempted only after discovering the interests of the child, and these should be used as the basis fordetermining the curricula for the various stages of education .
2. Social : All education has its beginnings in the individual’s participation in the social consciousness of the race. Hence it is necessary to create an atmosphere in the school, which will allow the child to take an active part in the social awakening of his group. This improves his conduct and develops his personality and abilities.
Principles of Curriculum Formation
1. In general, the child shows four major interests i.e. the desire to talk and exchange ideas, discovery,creation and artistic expression.
2. Curriculum to be flexible and not predetermined and rigid.
3. The curriculum should include only those subjects, which can be related to the child’s pattern of life atthat particular stage. This proximity to life can help in creating a distinctive unity in the knowledge imparted to him and thereby some harmony can be created in the teaching of history, geography,mathematics and language, etc. Dewey was very critical of the contemporary method of dividing knowledge into separate compartments, because he felt that such fragmentation of knowledge was unnatural. As far as possible the various subjects in the curriculum should be harmonized.