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Perspectives on Education

By Jonathan Steffen

A family’s perspective on education will greatly impact on how they evaluate past experiences and potential options. Many families haven’t considered theories of learning because these philosophies are deeply ingrained in their home culture or highly controlled by their government.

Also, in many contexts, education is seen exclusively as the domain of the school, and parents will take little note of the school’s foundational values. Schools are trusted to know how to produce successful citizens, and this task is outsourced to the schools.

A family living internationally may have more educational choices than in their home country and will need to consider the underlying perspective on education for any school they are considering.

It’s also important for you to identify your own perspective on education. Below are some questions to consider when evaluating your perspective on education or that of the educational option you are considering.

  • What are the most impacting contributors to our thinking and learning?
    Are they beliefs based on past experiences, religious ideals, knowledge, or experience gained, or timeless classical ideas? What enhances the learning process? What hinders it?
  • What is the goal of education?
    What is the most critical emphasis of education: mastering basic skills and knowledge, maintaining core curriculum, directing a student’s actions and behaviors, fostering inquiry or citizenship, or teaching critical thinking and decision making?
  • What is the primary role of a teacher?
    Should teachers focus on transferring knowledge, encouraging questioning, shaping character, instilling historical values and social norms? Who decides what is taught: the teacher, the institution, the student, or a group of students? How should students be assessed?
  • What is the primary role of the student?
    Should students focus more on mastering facts, applying knowledge to life, learning to use socially appropriate behavior, developing deep analytical and reasoning skills, or learning to formulate independent opinions and make good decisions?
  • What should the learning environment look like?
    Should the environment be student centered, group centered, or teacher centered? How important are physical and digital resources to learning? How much of a priority should student safety and emotional/social/spiritual health be in the learning environment?

Major Educational Perspectives

Most educational systems will be influenced by one or more of the prominent guiding philosophies or views of what educational outcomes should be, how those are achieved, and who should play the various roles in the process. You might recognize elements of the following perspectives as you begin to understand the educational philosophy of the options you are considering.


Teachers make more educational decisions.

  • Essentials First perspectives focus on the teaching of basic skills and facts that have been proven to be important to society.

    Usually textbook based, test-driven systems.
  • Learn from the Past perspectives focus on the teaching of principles and virtues through studying great literature and classic subjects.

    Usually literature based and may emphasize classic languages.


Students make more educational decisions.

  • Experience the World perspectives emphasize students’ social nature and natural curiosity, favoring hands-on and collaborative thematic unit based experiences.

    Usually based on real-world experiences in small groups.
  • Nurture the Human Experience perspectives focus on developing the whole person, using student choice and self-evaluation.

    Usually based on open-ended experiences focused on individual values and relationships between things and people.
  • Build on Prior Knowledge perspectives emphasize how students construct meaning through experiences and reflection.

    Usually focused on the learning process, using interactive experiences based on student interest.


Societal needs drive educational decisions.

  • Solve the Problem perspectives focus on the power of education to address and solve social problems, and emphasizes the social sciences.

    Usually focused on problem-solving experiences rather than completing a fixed curriculum.
  • Control Behavior perspectives utilize conditioning techniques to cultivate socially beneficial behaviors and learning.

    Usually characterized by a focus on classroom management systems to cultivate learning and social unity.


If you plan to educate your child at home, and considering the style or method for doing so, you may recognize some of the philosophies above in the curriculum or models you are considering. You can read more about the Approaches to Home Education at World Family Education.

What’s Next?

The next step toward developing a good educational plan is to explore educational options for those living internationally.

The Options

For a typical family living internationally, there are three main educational options — local schools, international schools, and home education — which are highlighted below. Some families choose a hybrid model, blending two or more of these options to fully meet their child’s needs.
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