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date: 22 October 2018

Key Instances of Holistic Curriculum as Alternatives to National Curriculum

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Holistic education as a field of inquiry began in the 1980s. Prior to this time, this field was referred to as humanistic education, confluent education, affective education, or transpersonal education. The work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow inspired many educators working in these areas. In 1988 The Holistic Education Review under the editorship of Ron Miller was first published along with The Holistic Curriculum by John Miller. However, as a field of practice, holistic education can first be found in indigenous education. Historically, Socrates, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Bronson Alcott, and Tolstoy can be viewed as working within a holistic frame.

What is that frame? It is educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Today, at every level, education focuses on skills and a narrow view of the intellect. The body receives little attention while the spiritual life of the student is ignored. This approach views the student as a brain on a stick. In contrast, the holistic curriculum attempts to reach the head, hands, and heart of the student.

The other main principle of holistic education is connectedness. Connectedness is one of the fundamental realities of nature. In contrast, the curriculum at every level, except perhaps for kindergarten, is fragmented as knowledge is broken down into courses, units, lessons, and bits of information. Rarely are there attempts to show how knowledge is interconnected. Holistic education seeks to be in harmony with how things actually are by focusing on connections. Six connections are at the core of the holistic curriculum: connections to the earth, community, subject integration, intuition/logic, body/mind, and soul. There are many models of holistic education in practice. They range from more structured approaches such as Waldorf education to schools such as Summerhill and Sudbury Valley that give students a great deal of choice. Despite these differences, each of these schools views the child as a whole human being.