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What is holistic education and why is it important?

Team StoryWeavers|March 21, 2022, 09:58 IST|

Over the course of time, we have gone through a number of changes in the systems of education. Each system has its own unique set of advantages. These systems have evolved over time giving way to the modern education system as we know it.

The modern education system is the widely accepted standard throughout the industry and is known by many names. Some call it traditional education, back-to-basics, customary or the conventional education system. In short, this is the system followed by the large majority of institutes in India.

What’s interesting is that there is another education system that is gaining popularity. And it is expanding at an unprecedented rate. This is due to the wide range of benefits that the system has to offer its students. Unlike the traditional education system, this system promotes progressive education practices and the approach is more holistic in nature. The primary focus is on the individual student’s needs along with ample freedom for self-expression.

What is holistic education?

The phrase holistic education refers to the inclusion of multiple facets of life like livelihood skills, economics, health and nutrition into education. It is a progressive education system.

Holistic education is a personalised learning pathway which changes from student to student. At its core, the system takes into account that no two individuals are the same. Some students pick up things faster while others might take more time to learn the same thing. Unlike conventional education, this difference is accommodated for.

Personalised learning pathways are more student-friendly and there’s room for a lot of self-discovery which helps the student in identifying what works best for them. Because learning is personalised, the student picks up the subject in the shortest possible time. And the process of learning is individually tailored to their needs. Coincidently, this is exactly what BYJU’S – The  Learning App does.

Holistic education is important today than ever before because of the ease with which students can access information. The sheer quantity of information present online can be overwhelming but then students who have gained experience at accessing it can easily filter out those that are relevant from those that are not.

Holistic education focuses immensely on each student discovering their unique pathway. In simple terms, this form of education can be called ‘whole child education’. The development of emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and social aspects of the student are the main focus areas of holistic education.

Holistic Education vs Traditional Education:

So what is the difference between the two? Holistic education claims that:

  • It focuses on the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social development of the student.
  • The teacher plays the role of a facilitator to induce development in students
  • It enhances and develops the cognitive and creative sides of its students and helps students discover an identity, purpose and meaning in connection to the community.
  • It is an integrated education system that is transformative in nature and the entire system is skill and knowledge oriented.
  • There is a strong collaborative relationship among students, parents and teachers.
  • It tries to cultivate a constructive approach, Gandhi’s Basic Education, Value Education and Peace Education.
  • It is more relevant to the life of the student as a whole and makes use of classrooms that promote active learning.
  • It provides a great level of freedom of the mind and heart while focusing on the artistic, academic and practical aspects of learning.
  • It also helps in developing inspiration, imagination and intuition in its students while focusing on a curriculum that values the interests, needs and ability of its students.

On the other hand, traditional education according to critics:

  • Focuses primarily on intellectual development while giving the teacher autocratic power.
  • Favours memorisation and is an exam-oriented system.
  • Has a system that places a number of restrictions on students and is a dominating system that rewards only those that conform to the rules.
  • Is highly programmed and mechanised and can include learning that has no practical applications in one’s life.
  • Is a system that has no child-based curriculum and makes way for fewer classroom interactions when compared to the holistic education system.
  • The system is designed to meet modern industrial requirements that promote passive learning.
  • Is highly teacher-centred and is a final evaluation based system.

The role of the teacher in holistic education:

In the traditional education system, the teacher is seen as a person of tremendous authority who controls every aspect of education in the classroom. Whereas in the case of holistic education the teacher is perceived as a mentor, a friend, a facilitator or as a companion with considerable experience. This helps students get rid of fear and creates a lot of openness when dealing with teaches.

Holistic education tries to promote open and honest communication between people and teaches to respect and appreciate individual differences. Competition is replaced by cooperation which is the reason why most schools under the system do not choose to give grades or rewards. Students start developing a cooperative mind set from a young age that they carry on to their professional lives as an adult. Teachers try to promote the concept of reward by helping one another rather than being at the top of the class. This helps in fostering a much more positive atmosphere at school.

What are the possible disadvantages of Holistic education?

Critics have cited a number of downsides to holistic education and some of the more prominent ones have been given below:

  • Firstly, it can under-emphasise academic learning which is being presented as a priority in the conventional system.
  • This system can rarely be adopted and practically executed beyond the early years of a student’s life.
  • The system can consume a lot of time and could be a lot more expensive making it fall beyond the reach of common people.
  • It may be extremely difficult to practically fit such a system into traditional school curricula.
  • Parents may become the strongest critics and hence hard to convince.

Over the years we have been witnessing a change in the world of education. Some say that this change is happening due to our realisation, that the current education system is too mechanised and lacks the power to positively influence the overall development of a child.

Many schools are changing their teaching methodology by making room for some level of holistic learning. This is a good sign according to many experts and is bound to have a meaningful impact on education in the long run. Also, check out the article on blended learning!

About the Author

Rohit is someone who fell in love with the word – change. And if there is one thing that he hates, it’s a boring and repetitive life. He loves learning new things and believes that it is a lifelong process. He also enjoys research, reading and reducing most things that he comes across to numbers!

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