Top 7 Primary Education Philosophers with their Views


Primary education is the foundation for the other (higher) levels of education in Nigeria (NPE 1981) and therefore teachers who are to be saddled with the responsibility of classroom instruction must have a good knowledge of childhood characteristics and methods of passing information to young boys and girls for effective understanding of primary school subjects. This article includes a study of some specialist childhood educators and philosophers whose contributions on primary education have been highlighted to assist trainees in going about their teaching tasks. The scholars are discussed below.

1. Plato


Plato was a great disciple of Socrates and the father of philosophy.

Plato’s educational theory goes beyond the narrow limits set by the educational practice of his day even though has was greatly influenced by the Greek ways of life. He was the first person to classify education into the formal level, as we now know it. He gave them as:

  • Nursery education for ages 3-6 years.
  • Elementary/primary education for ages 7-10
  • Secondary education for ages 11-17

One of Plato’s beliefs is that the process of education should start as early as possible since it is during the early childhood period that any impression that one may desire to communicate is most easily stamped and taken. According to him, the child must be surrounded by the right kind of environment which to him, which are like what we desire him to become.

Plato’s ideas have influenced a great extent of the modern principles and methods of teaching in primary schools.

2. Maria Montessori

Montessori was an Italian doctor and the originator of what is now known as the Montessori Method. She became a teacher not by design but by ‘accident’.

She was asked to supervise the mentally deficient children in a hospital ward in Rome from where she took a keen interest in the study of such children and their education.

She discovered there that mental sense training was the best method to achieve marvelous results in her education.

Some of her education ideas and practices which have gained universal recognition are summarized as follows:

(a) The careful organization of the child’s environment and the provision of special materials designed to give him/her practice in activities that might otherwise be encountered in the development just by chance.

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(b) The child’s imagination is to be developed through realities and not by use of fairy-taste, and fantasy.

(c) Learning must take place at the individual learners’ rates, free from the stress of rivalry and the false incentives of rewards and punishments.

(d) The teacher should have a good knowledge of the nature of the learners. He is to direct, organize and guide rather than teach the pupils.

(e) The teacher must acquire moral alertness, patience, love, and humility to be effective.

3. Comenius

Comenius was born in 1592 in the present-day Czechoslovakia. His original name, John Amos Komensky, was given a Latin name: Comenius.

He was a great theologian, educator, and reformer. He was of the view that education is concerned with the whole man and just the intellect. He was an Apostle of education for all irrespective of race, sex, class, or physical or mental handicap. Among his numerous ideas which have contributed to the development of modern education theory and practice at the primary school level include the following:

(a) Education as a birthright of everybody must be provided by the state.

(b) Children acquire knowledge of words by objects, hence while learning words; they should be taught by concrete objects.

(c) Teaching must be in vernacular (mother tongue) and through senses.

(d) Learning by children should be without tears blow and coercion.

(e) The pupils must be grouped according to their stages of development so that appropriate methods could be used in teaching them.

(f) The school be made a house of joy with a well-furnished and beautiful classroom environment.

4. J. J. Rousseau

Rousseau was a radical naturalist with the strong belief that education should be for the development of the child’s ability to cope with his problems and need and not a preparation for some long distant adulthood (future).

According to him, the child is naturally good and innocent hence he should be left to enjoy his childhood period and learn from his own experience and whatever is of interest to him.

Rousseau’s disgust with the traditional methods of learning led him to assert. He vehemently denounced the all-pervading tendency to verbatim in our schools (Curtis and Bouitwood 1975: Akinpelu, 1981)

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Although his ideas on education have been criticized as being too negative, radical, and impracticable, the modern theory and practices of education owe him a lot.

The major ideas of Rousseau which have great implications for teaching and learning particularly at the primary education level include:

(a). The child’s education should be based on his nature, experience, interest, and need.

(b). the child is not a miniature adult and so should not be treated as such.

(c)The teacher is a unique individual and should be studied and understood as such.

(d) The teacher should love and respect his pupils and his role should be that of a guide and adviser.

(e) Child-centred methods of teaching left by doing observation and experience should be used by the teacher.

5. Jean Pestalozzi

Pestalozzi was a Swiss educational former whose ideas as a Naturalist are similar to those of Rousseau. According to him, education is no more and no less than the discovery of the inner principle and promotion of the unfolding powers of the child.

In other words, all that the educator needs to provide for the child is proper nourishment and guidance. He regarded the home as the most important foundation of all education and all human development. His philosophy of education can be seen below:

(a) The school cannot replace the home. However, for the school to be close to it, all school activities must be based on love, acceptance, and discipline as the ideal home.

(b) The teaching of abstract ideas and principles must be linked to things.

(c) Teaching must start from the pupil’s area of interest and experience; gradually move into more difficult areas.

(d) The complete education must combine the hands, the brain and the heart. That is the education of the child should involve practical, intellectual, and moral activities.

6. Frederick Froebel

Froebel was a German education performer. His name is more associated with primary/kindergarten education than with any other level of education.

He is the father of the play-way method. He was influenced by both Pestalozzi’s and Rousseau’s ideas. His contributions to educational development can be summarized below.

(a) Education is a process of aiding the inner development/potentialities of the child to unfold.

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(b) The infant and the early childhood stages are the most important hence proper development of a child at these stages helps in the progress to higher levels in life.

(c) Learning is to be done by the child himself through play activities. This is because, according to him, play allows the child to exercise harmoniously all his physical, and emotional, and purpose with independence and rule with freedom.

(d) The teacher should provide the resources or learning and play for the child to choose and explore. He should not be a dictator of ideas and actions.

7. Julius Nyerere

Nyerere was the first President of Tanzian and his professional background as a teacher has influenced most of his ideas and actions as a statement.

His ideas are radical and are contained in a number of his books. His ideas on education have great implications for the contemporary educational programs in Africa in particular and the developing countries as a whole.

According to him, colonial education was not designed to prepare people for the services of their own country but to train individuals for the services of the colonial state.

He, therefore, enunciated his famous philosophy of education for self-reliance. Towards this goal, he suggested that the education of the African child should include the following:

(a) Prepare young ones to play a dynamic and constructive role in the development in the development of society.

(b) Emphasis on cooperative endeavor for individual advancement, not individual advancement.

(c) Encourage the development in the child an enquiring mind, the ability to learn from what others do and reject or adapt it to his own needs, and also develop basic confidence in his position as a free and equal member of society who value others and is valued by them for what he does and what he obtains.

(d) the education given in our primary schools must be complete and not just a preparation for secondary school.

(e) The object of teaching must be the provision of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will serve the learner when he/she lives and works in a developing and changing society like others.

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