Whole child education

After discussing a sensitive subject with you last week, I feel like touching on something a little lighter this time around – and something, to be frank, that has more to do with the regular day-to-day life of our school.  

I use this letter format from time to time to discuss pedagogical trends. Sometimes the topic merits more than an A4 page, so for those who are interested in more in-depth articles, you can find them on my blog here. A Facebook post will announce the publication of each article.  

Today’s trend is “Whole Child Education”, for which there is no French equivalent. Does that mean that French educators are only interested in educating part of the child and are uniquely focused on academic development to the detriment of all the rest?  

Whole Child Education means caring about children’s health, their physical and moral welfare and their contribution to society. It entails each child having access to personalised support and involves them being encouraged to keep on learning. It is a concept that we first started to hear about in California in the 80s, but it can be found in other, older, so-called alternative educational methods such as Steiner or Montessori. More than a trendy term, this movement has profoundly changed how we, as educators, think about our purpose.

I felt a strong demand from families for this type of education upon my arrival in Taipei, and I discovered that they had a hard time recognising it in action at our school. While it is true that we can chastise French schools – and I did it here – for not knowing how to “market” their philosophy, we cannot allow ourselves to consider that the French system neglects the non-academic side of a child’s education. You can see activities akin to Whole Child Education in practice every week at our school: regular outings, overnight trips and student exchanges with the US and France, midday learning support, homework clubs, Civics education from CP to Terminale, an Eco-school project and daily concern for the well-being of the children and teenagers in our care (to the extent that you can find traces of it in our evaluation and assessment methods) all contribute to educating our students entirely.

You’ll have noticed that in the short definition (in the third paragraph) of what it means to educate the Whole Child, there is no mention of knowledge, and yet, as you know by now, I consider it crucial that our students acquire a classical literary and humanistic education, allowing them to articulate and reason, connecting ideas and theories. Therein lies the beauty of the French educational system – we don’t consider Whole Child and Knowledge-Based methods to be mutually exclusive. For us, a child is only educated fully, indeed wholly, through a combination of both approaches.  So while we don’t have fancy slogans or trendy catch phrases to describe how we educate children, it has to be said that for us the words Whole Child Education amount to a tautology.   

Have an excellent weekend


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