What is traditional education?

Traditional education or back-to-basics refers to long-established customs found in schools that society has traditionally deemed appropriate. Some forms of education reform promote the adoption of progressive education practices, a more holistic approach which focuses on individual students' needs and self-expression.

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In a traditional classroom environment, there are usually anywhere from twenty to thirty children and one teacher. It is simply impossible for one person to give each student the one-on-one attention or instruction that may be required.
In a classroom of twenty to thirty children, there are going to be several children with differing learning styles and academic strengths and weaknesses. A teacher is woefully unequipped to handle all learning styles or weaknesses. And students who present as "problem students," a child who is difficult to manage or who disrupts the classroom is also going to take away time that the teacher could be using to help with one-on-one time with his or her students.
In a traditional classroom environment, children become bored or frustrated. Some children learn better by visual means, others will learn better with auditory means, and still others are going to learn better with a hands-on approach.
It is virtually impossible for a single teacher to accommodate all methods of learning when he or she is responsible for teaching a large number of children. Thus, children who do not fall into the "traditional learning method" category are far more likely to become bored or discouraged, or to display behavior problems in the classroom
There are many others who have difficulty learning in this environment, interacting with peers that are strictly in their age range, or who require more one-on-one attention and time to grasp certain concepts.
For those who discourage homeschooling due to the "socialization" issue: Out of the educational environment, and into adulthood, children are not always going to be around others their own age. It's important that they learn to relate to those not only their own age, but also those who are both younger and older.
The disadvantages of a traditional classroom are many. When it comes to children and education, there is no "one size fits all" answer, and attempting to force children to learn in the same way is counter-productive to producing healthy, well-educated and well-rounded adults.

What is Modern Education?

Traditional education involved learning to read, acquiring mental skills, and developing the ability to think conceptually. The idea behind traditional education was to prepare the student with as wide and strong a base as possible for future success and contribution in the world. The modern psychologists have a different idea, and this involves ensuring the students possess the correct beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. The attention in education has gone from cognitive skills and effective thinking ability, to affective things, such as how the student feels, what he believes and what attitudes he has. This is why students perform worse on standardized tests today that gauge thinking ability and cognitive skills compared to 25 or 50 years ago.

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Educational methods, that "practical theory" - neither art nor science but a "programm of action", as sociologist Emile Durkheim defined it - outlines responses to problems raised by the democratisation of schooling undertaken in France since immediately after the war and which gathered pace in the 1980s and 1990s, with the government’s stated aim of bringing 80% of young people in each year group up to the Baccalauréat.
Faced with the problems posed by mass education, current educational theories place"the pupil at the centre of the educational system" - a principle also enshrined in the Education law of 1989 - and recommend starting from the child’s own centres of interest to put him in a position to learn1. In recent years this approach has been translated in France by introducing children’s literature in the primary school and supervised individual work at the high school - in the form of completing a project on a subject that interests the pupil - or by using new technologies. All these are ways designed to reconcile young people with learning.

But the diversity of pupils is not only social, as psychology has shown, inviting us also to take account of young people’s affectivity, a potential source of impediments to learning. From this viewpoint, those educationalists labelled "reformers", advocate giving up the traditional system of marks for pupils’ final work in favour of continuous and constructive assessment, capable of highlighting the progress made. "Instructive assessment" would also make it possible to limit the negative effects that bad marks have on pupils, especially their demotivating impact.

Another aspect now called into question is the organisation of pupils into fixed and predetermined classes. Differentiated education suggests replacing this system by large groups of three or four classes, divided, depending on pupils’ needs, into groups of different sizes. These groups would be temporary, not only to allow for progress made by young people in the learning process, but also to avoid locking them up in a stigmatising group (the slow-learners group). This arrangement implies, moreover, new school timetables. Lastly, it entails training teachers in educational culture, team working and their new responsibilities for the all-round education of pupils. A thorough overhaul of their training has begun with the university institutes of education (IUFM, see box) and the revision of school timetables is continuing.

(Kathy Crapez, Doctoral student in Political Science at the University of Paris)

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