What are the 7 philosophies of education? & Comparison Chart

7 Philosophies of education

There are several philosophical approaches or paradigms in the field of education. While there isn’t a universally agreed-upon list of “7 philosophies of education,” the following seven are often discussed as prominent educational philosophies:


  1. Idealism: Idealism is a philosophical approach that places a strong emphasis on the role of ideas and the mind in education. Idealists believe that knowledge is primarily acquired through rational thought and contemplation. They view education as a means to discover and develop one’s intellectual and moral capacities.
  2. Realism: Realism in education emphasizes the importance of objective reality and empirical knowledge. Realists believe that education should focus on the acquisition of facts and the exploration of the physical world. Scientific methods and observation play a central role in this philosophy.
  3. Pragmatism: Pragmatism is a philosophy that emphasizes the practical and experiential aspects of education. Pragmatists believe that education should be relevant to the needs and interests of students and society. They advocate for hands-on learning, problem-solving, and the application of knowledge.
  4. Existentialism: Existentialism in education is concerned with individual freedom, choice, and personal responsibility. Existentialists believe that education should help individuals confront the fundamental questions of existence and develop their authentic selves. It encourages critical thinking and self-exploration.
  5. Progressivism: Progressivism is an educational philosophy that aligns with the ideas of John Dewey. It emphasizes active, student-centered learning, where students engage in inquiry, experimentation, and problem-solving. Progressivists view education as a means to promote social reform and democratic values.
  6. Constructivism: Constructivism is a modern educational philosophy that emphasizes the active construction of knowledge by the learner. It posits that learners build their understanding through experiences, interactions, and reflection. Constructivist approaches often advocate for inquiry-based and student-led learning.
  7. Critical Theory: Critical theory in education is rooted in the ideas of critical theorists like Paulo Freire. It focuses on issues of power, oppression, and social justice in education. Critical theorists argue that education should empower individuals to critically examine and challenge oppressive social structures.


It’s important to note that these educational philosophies are not mutually exclusive. Many educators and institutions may incorporate elements from multiple philosophies into their educational approaches. Additionally, there are other educational philosophies and paradigms beyond these seven. Educators often adapt and integrate different philosophies to meet the needs of their students and educational contexts.

Comparison Chart philosophy of education

Creating a comprehensive comparison chart of different philosophies of education can be a helpful tool for understanding their key principles and differences. Here’s a simplified comparison chart of five prominent educational philosophies: Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, and Progressivism. Please note that this is a general overview, and each philosophy can have variations and nuances:

Comparison Chart

Nature of RealityReality is primarilyReality existsReality is a matter ofReality is subjective,Reality is ever-changing
a product of the mindindependently of thepractical experience andbased on individualand evolving, shaped by
and ideas; it’shuman mind; it’sutility; it’s grounded inperceptions andsocial interactions and
ideal and perfect.objective and concrete.usefulness.personal experiences.experiences.
Role of KnowledgeKnowledge is discoveredKnowledge is acquiredKnowledge is practical,Knowledge is subjective,Knowledge is constructed
through rationalthrough sensoryapplicable, andand individuals mustthrough active
contemplation andperception andadaptable to real-lifeconfront the uncertaintiesexploration, inquiry, and
intellectual pursuits.empirical evidence.situations.and anxieties of life.problem-solving.
Purpose of EducationTo cultivate the intellect,To transmit factualTo prepare students forTo help individuals findTo promote social reform
develop moral values,knowledge and skills.practical success inmeaning and personaland democratic values.
and pursue truth andeveryday life.identity.
Teaching MethodsEmphasis on lecture,Traditional teachingHands-on, experientialEncourages questioning,Student-centered,
discussion, andmethods, includinglearning, problem-solving,critical reflection, andactive learning through
Socratic dialogue.lectures and textbooks.and critical thinking.and exploration.inquiry-based approaches.
Role of the TeacherTeachers are seen asTeachers are theTeachers serve asTeachers guide andTeachers facilitate,
authoritative guides andprimary sources offacilitators, helpingmentors, creating amentor, and empower
moral exemplars.knowledge and authority.students discoversupportive environmentsstudents to take charge
knowledge for themselves.for self-exploration.of their learning.
View on CurriculumEmphasis on classical andEmphasis on coreCurriculum should beEmphasis on diverse,Emphasis on a flexible,
foundational subjects,academic subjects.practical and adaptable,relevant, andrelevant, and
including philosophyreflecting real-lifeinterdisciplinaryinterdisciplinary
and the humanities.skills.subjects, includingsubjects based on
the arts and sciences.student interests.
View on IndividualEmphasizes intellectualIndividuals are shapedIndividuals should beCelebrates individuality,Emphasizes individual
and moral development.by their environmentprepared to adapt andfreedom, and personalagency and creativity.
Encourages conformityand experiences.thrive in a changingresponsibility.Respects individual
to moral and intellectualworld.differences and

Last Words

Please keep in mind that 7 philosophies of education & this chart provides a simplified overview of these philosophies, in practice, there can be variations and combinations of these educational approaches. Additionally, other philosophies and perspectives exist in the field of education. So this chart represents only a subset of the broader landscape of educational philosophy.

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