Traditional or Progressive School? What’s best for your child?

this feature came out in the May 2009 issue of HIPP (Happy, Intelligent, Progressive Parenting) Magazine. we wanted to give parents a guide to choosing the best possible path of education for their kids, and not just stick to the “well-that’s-where-your-lolo-and-your-papa-and-your-uncles-went-so-that’s-where-you’re-going” sort of mindset that pervades much of philippine society.

every kid is different. a parent cannot expect his/her child to be like him, to thrive in the same atmosphere he or she grew up in. among the many “mistakes” of the baby boomer generation (parents of the Gen X and Gen Y, and their parents before them) was their “boxing in” of their own children, expecting them to be “smart” in a certain way and assigning them “not smart” if they didn’t fit the mold or expectations of society. education and schooling was limited to rote memorization, adhering to rules without being encouraged to think critically, and to the four corners of the classroom. but that’s all they knew; that’s all that was available to them at that time.

Gen X and Gen Y parents now have access to so many sources of information on so many different kinds of education; entry points on how to make a child thrive, intellectually, socially, psychologically, physically. it would be a shame if we let these resources and the opportunities they lead us to, pass us by.

[these are the types of stories i wanted to bring to readers through HIPP—un-Google-able content that would give practical, no bullshit advice to intelligent, forward-thinking parents. it died because of reasons like “it’s too intellectual; we can’t sell it to advertisers.” <*facepalm> no wonder the philippines is where it is.] 

anyway, the following piece was written by Karisma Kasilag-Sison. i hope it helps you in your choices in the next schoolyear 🙂


Subhead: Children thrive in learning environments that suit them. Karisma Kasilag-Sison tells us why every parent should be aware of the pros and cons of traditional and progressive schools, and how to make the best possible choice for their children’s education

(Illustration by Melvin Dantes)

“We’re one but we’re not the same,” goes the popular song from the rock band U2. Do you have a talkative child or a silent and observant one? The various personalities of children have their corresponding ways of acquiring and processing information. Parents should be aware of this so they can put their children in the right classroom environment where they will feel comfortable, stimulated, and enthusiastic.

School placements should not be taken lightly. It’s unfair to put a child in old-name schools just because that’s where you and your grandparents graduated from. On the other hand, if you’ve had a progressive education because you were traumatized in the highly authoritarian traditional schools, you must observe your child if he’s okay with alternative methods. You and your children may not have the same needs, so you must be open to that. There are many factors to consider. What does your child need as an individual? Where can he achieve his highest potential?

Personal agenda

It all starts with personality assessment, typically done through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). It was developed by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs to understand the differences and similarities in human personalities, and, based on the psychological theory of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist who disputed that personality traits are inherited or innate. There are eight traits in the MBTI: extravert, introvert, sensing, intuitive, thinking, feeling, perceiving, and judging.

Extraverts talk to others a lot. They thrive in classrooms filled with discussion, group work and action-based activities. Introverts are the independent, contemplative types who learn best through quiet, mental reflection. They express themselves through writing rather than talking.

Sensing people rely heavily on their five senses to take in real and tangible information. Doers rather than thinkers, they like step-by-step practical applications and hands-on activities. Intuitive people zero in on general concepts but often ignore the details. They focus on the future and would rather think than do. They do best in classrooms where there are opportunities to be inventive and original in finding ways to solve problems.

Thinking types are critical and analytical students who learn best when information is presented in a logical, orderly fashion. They want to be respected fairly and objectively by instructors. Feeling people strive to create harmony and decide on the basis of their feelings, and personal likes and dislikes. They relate ideas and concepts to personal experiences. They enjoy connecting with classmates in group work and don’t like detached and impersonal teachers.

Judging people are organized planners who treat assignments seriously. They do well with formalized instruction and defined tasks. They meet deadlines and prefer to work on only one thing at a time. Perceiving types are spontaneous. They are flexible, open to last-minute options and work on many things at once. They study best when they have surges of impulsive energy.

After identifying your child’s personality type with the help of his teachers, you’re now ready to choose between a traditional or non-traditional school. Thinking and judging personalities succeed best in the traditional setup, and the sensing and perceiving ones in non-traditional. Extraverts, introverts, as well as intuitive and feeling people generally do well in either setup.

Trad grads

Traditional or mainstream education refers to long-established customs found in schools that society has traditionally deemed appropriate. It maintains objective educational standards based on testing.

Traditional schools are highly associated with high academic success and standards of conduct. In the classroom, students are matched by age and ability, and are taught the same material. Instruction is based on textbooks and lectures.

The upshot of trad school students is that they are used to standard tests required for admission to A-list universities. Years later, brighter job opportunities await them as many employers, more often than not, put the trad grads on top of the “hire pile.”

We interviewed parents who are loyal to traditional schooling. Happy Guevarra Maloles, 34, a flight attendant, has children enrolled in Woodrose and Rosemont Schools. She explains: “I want my children to learn to adjust and live in the real world. In traditional schools, your children learn to follow the rules and keep with the schedule. It teaches them that there is a big world out there and it does not revolve around them.”

Lizabeth R. Dela Cruz, 32, whose five year-old daughter studies in Colegio San Agustin, reasons, “It’s not that I have anything against non-traditional, but I want my child to grow up exposed to the norms set by society.”

However, according to Kevin James Bondelli’s study, “An Evaluation of the Ineffectiveness of the Traditional Educational System,” traditional schools are actually counterproductive to real learning. He writes that the reliance on succeeding in standardized tests forces teachers to concentrate on giving information rather than hands-on activities where actual learning can really take place. Also, the highly authoritarian nature, where the teacher is the possessor of knowledge while the student is the recipient, allows students little or no democratic involvement in their own education. Lastly, it leads students to only extrinsically value education and not intrinsically value learning. Most students in school are not there to learn, but to complete it and get a degree.

Forward thinkers

Alternative education, also known as progressive or non-traditional education, includes a number of approaches to teaching and learning other than mainstream or traditional education. These schools often emphasize the value of small class size. Multi-age or open classrooms are common where students are dynamically grouped by interest or ability per subject.

Many are advocates of non-traditional education because the curriculum is student-centered and related to students’ academic and personal concerns. Gifted children and those with special talents bloom best in this supportive community.

Programs are centered on student self-determination and personal responsibility for their education. Students set personal goals and decide for themselves how fast they will move toward completion, while teachers are there as advisors, mentors, and counselors.

Alternative grading and performance assessment are used to prevent students from failing classes. Students are not failed but are assisted to complete additional work and achieve mastery.

Arguable disadvantages to this system include assessment that is hard to standardize. For example, some schools conduct continuous assessment without a formal, supervised examination. Others practice open book exams under unlimited time. These remove pressure and all the usual stressors inherent in time-limited writing examinations that they will need in college.

Also, when the child returns to a traditional classroom, he may struggle. For example, a Montessori student finds it hard to fit in a classroom that does not permit his own choices of learning activities or teacher-led tasks. Academically, he may get impatient in a traditional school, where the teacher follows a uniform material at a set time for all students in the class, when he is ready to move on to new lessons.

Kathryn Lee K. Tan, 31, junior supervisor in a call center, believes that guidance and discipline from parents is crucial. She further maintains that whether a child studies in a traditional or non-traditional school will not guarantee eventual college admission, but the probability will be raised if parents give motivation and support to their kids.

On the subject, Maybelle Barriga, 35, expresses: “Personally, I believe that once a child reaches confidence in her potential, no matter how a standardized setting may rate her, she can easily adapt to whatever college she may choose. For me, it’s not really the college or institution that makes a person, but a person that makes the institution a success.”

For peace of mind, parents can further tutor college-bound children or find reputable review centers offering programs with orientation seminars and specialized diagnostic and simulated tests before letting them take their College Admission Test (CAT).

Trading courses

If your child is having a tough time succeeding in his current school, consider giving him a fresh start. Transferring him from a traditional to a progressive school, or vise versa, can give him the opportunity to start over and discover his strengths and assets.

There are common reasons for transferring children to or from traditional and alternative schools. Signs are usually when your child…

* cannot cope in his current classroom setup, such as a highly populated school or one with conventional rules and regulations

* is having academic performance difficulties

* is disruptive or disorderly in his present learning environment

* shows signs of emotional maladjustment such as anxiety, loss of sleep or loss of interest

Review your child’s academic and behavior records and ask feedback from teachers if your child is making appropriate progress. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your child and ask him what kind of school he prefers. If he has talked with a counselor or therapist, ask for a letter of opinion about the right school placement for the student. Schedule an appointment with a developmental pediatrician to verify if he may need a special education evaluation that will refer him to a SPED school.

For children shifting from progressive to mainstream settings, prepare for adaptation problems during the initial adjustment period. For example, students who received a Steiner-Waldorf education may find transitions between the first and fourth grades tricky because of considerable differences in the pacing of the two curriculums. A second grader from a traditional school will be further ahead in reading than his Waldorf-schooled counterpart, while the Waldorf-schooled child will be advanced in math.

There’s no need to worry though because in due time, children will learn to acclimatize in new situations. This can actually expose them to dealing with changes that are inevitable in life. At the end of the day, giving your child the best education that suits him is what matters most.


Glad I Switched!

By Maybelle P. Barriga, 35, Former Preschool Teacher

Because my 13-year-old daughter’s academic ability became so erratic in the traditional Woodrose School, I observed her carefully and found out that she is the type of learner who would do better in a class with a smaller number of participants. She tends to accomplish tasks when constantly guided and prodded. She’s also a kinesthetic learner who needs lots of movement and sensory exploration.

That’s why we opted to transfer her to a more flexible educational environment, which is at Pacific Rim Educational Foundation’s Philippine Christian School of Tomorrow. I appreciate the small student-teacher ratio and the curriculum that accommodates my child’s learning pace and capacity. She can go as fast or as slow in certain facets of any given subject matter. Additionally, the progressive school also gives merits as an extrinsic motivation.

My daughter fits so well in this setting. She’s starting to be more sociable and charismatic. And she continues to work well when praised so I keep the compliments coming!

Box 2:

What do parents consider the most in deciding their children’s education?

In a survey conducted by HIPP Magazine, 25 respondents ranked the factors from highest to lowest.

1—30% Curriculum and extracurricular Activities

Top priority is given to the philosophy, areas of concentration, and supplemental offerings of schools.

2—23% Chances of getting into a good university

Largely considered as parents’ return of investment, although some with younger children say it’s a big factor only in

children say it’s a big factor only in the later years

3—20% Proximity to home

Convenience in transportation, time saving, and prevention of frequent absences and tardiness takes the median vote.

4—16% Cost

Education expenses are expected to be realistic and sustainable. A few pinpoint this as their first consideration in response to the global economic crisis.

5—11% Family tradition

The majority is open to more liberal and advanced methods to prepare their children for the demands of the 21st century. Even parents raised with traditional views no longer deem this necessary.


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