The Whole Child Approach in Education


Greetings from The Progressive Teacher.

Rita Wilson
Rita Wilson

’We’ve progressed from a society of farmers (AGRICULTURAL AGE) to a society of factory workers (INDUSTRIAL AGE) to a society of knowledge workers (INFORMATION AGE). And now we’re progressing yet again – to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers (CONCEPTUAL AGE).’- Daniel Pink

In the above picture the modern man has been portrayed as a liberated, confident, happy man who is a multi-tasker. Unlike his predecessors, he seems to be enjoying life and does not seem burdened with the ‘cares’ of day to day living. This is the result of The Whole Child Approach in Education. We know that treating schools as if they are factories turning out workers to compete in the world economy does not work. It fails to connect with what is highest and best in the child. We know that standardization, excessive testing, and narrowing the focus of education to measurable intellectual performance does not work. It leaves out too much of what it means to be a complete, spirited, fulfilled human being.

Brain science tells us that the more faculties, the more parts of the child’s brain we engage, it is more likely that the material will be retained and truly internalized. Recent writing by developmental cognitive neuroscientist Adele Diamond and by neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford (Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head) explain why this is so. But thinking about holistic learning is not new. It goes as far back as Socrates.

The Whole Child Approach teaching strategy uses social emotional learning to help students create the best learning outcomes. For optimal learning to occur, the emotional and social well-being of the students should also be considered and addressed; and this forms the Whole Child Approach.

The objective of the Whole Child Approach is not just to improve students’ academic performance, but also contribute to their overall development. When students are healthy, safe, supported, engaged and challenged, they are able to learn to the best of their ability.

While there is no singular or universal answer to reduce the stress and academic challenges facing our students today, incorporating the Whole Child Approach may prove useful in developing healthier and happier children better equipped for real-life.

Drawing on the best holistic approaches and recognizing that children have multiple intelligences, the Whole Child Approach identifies five kinds of learning that we like to see every child exposed to, every day if possible. They are:

  • cognitive-intellectual activity, associated with the left brain
  • creative-intuitive activity (the arts), associated with the right brain
  • structured physical movement and unstructured, self-directed play
  • handwork, making things that can be useful
  • engagement with nature and community.

It has been rightly said –The Whole Child approach does not see youth as empty vessels to be filled with narrowly defined content knowledge, but as individuals who have great potential to grow and develop socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and civically as well as cognitively.

The theme for the next issue of The Progressive Teacher is Teacher Student Relationships. I await your views on this theme for publication.

Greetings of the season to all our readers.

Rita Wilson

Rita Wilson has over 40 years of rich experience as educationist including over 30 years of experience in school leadership positions. She is the former Chief Executive and Secretary Council for the ICSE, New Delhi.

She is a consultant to a number of corporate houses and educational institutions. She is serving as a Member of the Board of Governors/Managing Committees of some of the most prestigious schools and colleges of the country.

She has vast exposure to the education systems of Japan, Germany, England, Thailand, Singapore, Sharjah, Dubai and Finland. She has initiated, conducted and organised workshops for school teachers and principals all over India

With a B.A. (Hons) English Literature, M.A., M.Phil. (English Literature), B.Ed. to her credit, she has edited three series of English readers and work-books for school children.