As schools struggle to improve student outcomes, the holistic education concept, the philosophy of educating the whole person beyond core academics, is gaining traction in learning circles.
Many organizations realize that students require more than just a solid foundation in a core curriculum; they also need community support and a compassionate understanding of the world.
Educators and school administrators are searching for new ways to educate children today more than ever. There are many deliberations on how to prepare better the next generation to vary from teachers to policymakers. As a result, they are working on more creative and modern ways of providing different teaching methods and modern educational philosophies.
The philosophy of comprehensive education is an educational philosophy that has gained little media recognition.
Defining Holistic Education
What exactly is holistic education?
Holistic instruction or education is a holistic approach to teaching in which educators strive to meet students’ emotional, physical, ethical, and intellectual needs in an immersive learning format.
The emphasis is on creating supportive school environments and supplying children with whole-child resources (services that meet both academic and non-academic needs, also known as wrap-around supports) (Anon 2020).
History of Holistic Education
The history of holistic education traces back to the time of The Greeks. Socrates can be considered the earliest holistic sophist due to his encouragement that every individual should “know thyself.” Holism’s idea comes from holon, a Greek concept, which views the universe as a set of interconnected wholes that no one can separate into parts.
The term “Holistic Education” is accredited to the South African Field Marshal General Jan Christian Smuts, who proposed this philosophy of learning, drawing inspiration from the Greek concept of holon. Smuts can be considered the founder of “holism.”
In 1926 he wrote a book titled “Holism and Evolution,” where he described holism as “the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution” (Smuts 1926). His work set the foundation for holistic education and inspired many others to advance the philosophy of holistic education. However, it was during the 80s that holistic education became visible as an educational movement. (Miller n.d.)
The Benefits of Holistic Education
Holistic education stems from the traditional way of learning as it is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation. Educators must consider that children with varying capacities are individuals with different needs, and if they are underperforming, it is not because they are half-witted or it is necessarily wilful.
They need a different approach with the subject at hand. Holistic education aims to get the most out of the students in terms of elevating their performance. Abraham Maslow has referred to this as “self-actualization,” which means achieving one’s true potential. Simply evaluating one over how well they memorize and remember key concepts is not a reliable method of measuring one’s capability. Hence, exams should not define the students’ intellect or academic worth.
The effects of holistic education result in students gaining trust and improving their verbal and social skills. They begin to love studying and engaging themselves with such topics because they have intense experiences with these practices. Intrinsic desire drives them to be curious, interested, and, hopefully, creative adults in the workplace.
Holistic education bears many benefits. Here are some, to name a few.
- Enhanced Problem-Solving Capabilities
Holistic education allows for hands-on experience, developing critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities that will make them prepared to face real-world problems head-on in their adult life.
Essential abilities are taught, such as analysing data and collaborating with other employees. These skills help increase their credentials towards their future employers.
The holistic approach is guaranteed to be less dull for students and can motivate and inspire them to figure out their career goals and pursue them.
- Improved Mental and Emotional Health
It allows students to harbour better relations amongst each other while creating a socially cohesive environment. Educating students about social and emotional well-being alongside academic education makes them better equipped with self-awareness, confidence, and a sense of social responsibility. The Learning Policy Institute confirms that it reduces the psychological effect of violence, harassment, or poverty on academic achievement.
- Improved Academic Performance
According to the Learning Policy Institute, children’s brain capacities are enhanced when they are a part of an environment that makes them feel emotionally and physically secure, allowing them to feel a connection towards others. Holistic education can immensely improve students’ academic performance, regardless of whatever background they may be from, as it caters to providing a supportive learning environment to every individual through their specific needs.
Limitations of Holistic Education
As every educational approach comes with its drawbacks, holistic education has its share too. Firstly, it may somewhat compromise academic learning. Secondly, schools may have trouble incorporating it into their curriculum. Lastly, many parents may disapprove of this form of education due to comparisons made amongst children that follow academic education.
Holistic teaching is a pedagogical approach that can satisfy all types of pupils’ needs, be a source of satisfaction and gratification for students, and educate potential people to care about others, their families, and the world. It is consistent with both global and environmental education, focusing on the principles of interdependence and connectedness.
Based on this interdependent perspective, we can safely say that holistic education aims to create a community where we exist in peace with our surroundings (Mahmoudi et al. 2012).
- Anon 2020, ‘What is Holistic Education? Understanding the History, Methods, and Benefits’, American University, viewed 20 March, 2021, <https://soeonline.american.edu/blog/what-is-holistic-edcation>.
- Smuts, J.C. (1926), Holism and Evolution, London: Macmillan & Co, viewed 20 March, 2021, <https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=ZGIGAwAAQBAJ>.
- Miller, JP 2003, ‘Holistic Education: Learning for an Interconnected Word’, Education for Sustainability, pp. 1-7, viewed 20 March, 2021, <http://www.eolss.net/sample-chapters/c11/e6-61-04-01.pdf>.
- Mahmoudi, S, Jafari, E, Nasrabadi, HA & Liaghatdar, MJ 2012, ‘Holistic education: An Approach for 21 Century’, International Education Studies, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 178-186, viewed 20 March, 2021, <https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1066819.pdf>.