Idealism and Philosophy of Education

Idealism and Philosophy of Education

Idealism and Philosophy of Education


Idealism and Philosophy of Education: Idealism is the oldest system of philosophy known to man. Its origins go back to ancient India in the East, and to Plato in the West. Its basic viewpoint stresses the human spirit as the most important element in life. The universe is viewed as essentially nonmaterial in its ultimate nature. Although Idealist philosophers vary enormously on many specifics, they agree on the following two points; the human spirit is the most important element in life; and secondly the universe is essentially nonmaterial in its ultimate nature.  Idealism should not be confused with the notion of high aspirations that is not what philosophers mean when they speak of Idealism. In the philosophic sense, Idealism is a system that emphasizes the pre-eminent importance of mind, soul, or spirit. It is possible to separate Idealism into different schools, but for our purposes we shall be content to identify only the most general assumptions of the Idealists in metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory, without regard to the idiosyncrasies of the various schools.

If we study the basic principles, Idealism puts forth the argument that reality, as we perceive it, is a mental construct. It means that experiences are result of sensory abilities of the human mind and not because reality exists in itself, as an independent entity. In the philosophical term this means that one cannot know the existence of things beyond the realm of the intellect. Plato describes “reality” in his Theory of Forms. For him the “Form” is actual substance of ‘Things’ which ‘Formed’ matter and perceptible reality. Plato wants convey the message that matter is real and can be experienced as a rational living entity; it is not a mere projection of consciousness.

According to Knight (1998) Augustine (354-430), Rene Descartes (1596-1650), George Berkeley and the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and George William Hegel are the prominent names who represent idealism. Berkeley and Kant have interpreted idealism in very different ways. Kant described idealism as transcendent, whereas Berkeley called it ‘immaterialism’ which is commonly termed as subjective materialism. George Berkeley says that the material world exists because there is a mind to perceive it and that things which are not within the conceptual framework of the human mind cannot be deemed real.

Berkeley admits that objects exist, but their presence in the physical realm is as long as there is a mind to perceive them. For this Berkeley has used a Latin phrase ‘Esse est percipi’ (to be perceived).On the other hand Kant is of the opinion that reality exists independently of human minds but its knowledge is inherently unknowable to man because of sensory filters in our consciousness. These filters slow down our ability to see the ‘thing in itself’. Thus our ultimate perception of things is always through the mind’s fixed frame of reference.

Idealism and curriculum

According to idealism the teacher is the symbol or model of good character, he is the masters of all sort of knowledge, so the teacher has the central role in the teaching-learning (Singh, 2007). The teacher has right to choose suitable content from the available literature and to teach. The student is a passive receptor, who has to gain the knowledge transferred by the knowledge. The teacher certifies the disciple at the successful completion of education as per the above given age levels (Singh).

Idealism and aim of education

Plato says that to become a philosopher or king, a person has to go through all the processes of education. He describes the aim of education as to drag every man out of the cave as far as possible. Education should not aim at putting knowledge into the soul, but at turning the soul toward right desires continuing the analogy (similarity) between mind and sight. The overarching goal of the city is to educate those with the right natures; so that they can turn their minds sharply towards the Form of the Good. The philosophers must return periodically into the cave (society) and rule there. Aristotle says that education is essential for complete self realization as he says, “The supreme good to which we all aspire is the happiness. A happy man is the one who is educated. A happy man is virtuous, virtue is gained through education.” Plato says that Education is for the individual’s personal betterment and that of the society.

Idealism and stages of education

Plato has also divided the process of education into five major steps;

  1. Age 7 to 18; study general mathematic, music, astronomy and so on,
  2. Age 18 to 20; considers best for physical training,
  3. Age  20 to 30; study of logic, knighthood, and mathematics
  4. Age 30 to 35; study of dialectics
  5. Age 35 to 50; practice of dialectics in various official affairs in the state
  6. 50 years +; a person can become a philosopher or king as his tern comes.

Plato says that in each step the person is given with different sort of education. He suggests screening those in each step who cannot perform well. The ones who can successfully pursue all the six stages can be called philosophers who have the understanding of the form of good.

Idealism and method of teaching

idealism is traditional philosophy of education in which teacher has centeral role who has to be role model so that the students will adopt his model to become good citizen. In idealism the lacture method is considered the most important one in which a delivers lecture and students listen to the teacher. Teacher selects any topic or issue for teaching first he teaches the topic then asks the questions about that topic. Students answer the asked questions, Teacher provides the feedback and students improve themselves according to the teacher’s feedback. This is teacher centered approach therefore students do not participate in a well manner and do not understand the taught content. This method of teaching is not suitable for young or elementary level of students because they are not habitual for listening long time. This method is only used for adults. Because their mind is mature and they can understand easily.    The second method that suits idealism the most is the Socratic Method in which the teacher involves the students in learning activities. The teacher raises an issue and the students are encouraged to discuss it in a dialogue form and reach to a conclusion.

Idealism and assessment

In idealism Assessment is a means for focusing teachers’ collective attention, examining their assumptions, and creating a shared culture dedicated to continuously improving the quality of higher learning. Assessment requires making expectations and standards for quality explicit and public; systematically gathering evidence on how well performance matches those expectations and standards; analyzing and interpreting the evidence; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. In idealism teacher has the central role then the child, so he can assess the child’s learning by asking him certain questions based on the information that has been provided by teacher’s lecture or from the text book used in the teaching learning process.


From the above stated discussion it can be concluded that idealism is an important philosophy which has played an important role in the field of education. It provides a complete guideline for the students, teachers, learning activities and many more. In current age idealism has been week as much emphasis of the education is put on the realistic approaches, still it has its impacts in our education system.


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