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A vagabond without family bonds and literary training, J.J Rousseau has
influenced the philosophy of education its meaning, aims, methods, curriculum and
organisation more than Montague with all his wisdom or Comenius with all his
philosophy or lock with all his reason and truth.
Born in 1712 at Geneva at the threshold of the age of faith, hope, reason
and romanticism, and democratic ideals, Rousseau revolutionised the whole
spectrum of education in a number of ways his extra-ordinary talents reviled from his
enormous writing.

The crux of his philosophy is naturalism and thus, the key note of his
philosophy was to have a natural state, natural man and a natural civilization. He
thought that all the ills and miseries of the people are due to the apparent departure
from the state of nature. He stated vociferously “Everything is good as it comes from
the hands of the author of nature but everything degenerates in the hand of man”
(opening sentence of Emile in 1762).

Rousseau provided three-fold meaning of nature, which are as follows:-

 He wanted to save the man from the pernicious effects of society for every
man is as pure as clean water.
 The second meaning of nature refers to the native tendencies, instincts and
capacities of men which are more reliable looses for action than experiences
gained from the society.
 The third meaning is attached to the contact with natural phoneme. He
believed that one who is nourished and thought in natural environments
automatically becomes a natural man.

Rousseau found that the prevailing system of education was un-naturalistic and
useless. He indentified the following as the chief aims of education.

 He said that the chief of education was the attainment of fullest natural growth
of the individual, leading to balanced, harmonious, useful and natural life.
 The real aim of education is to help the child to lead an enjoyable, useful and
natural life.
 Education aims at making an individual a man first for man in sure of success
in multifarious fields of life.
 Rousseau says that education should aim at development of social, moral and
spiritual aspects of the child.
 Another aim of education is to prepare a child for meeting contingencies and
challenges in future life.

His curriculum spreads through the contour of development stage of children.

 Curriculum at the first stage (i.e. infancy) from birth to 5 years would be
pointed to the growth of physical strength.
 Curriculum at the second stage (i.e. childhood) from 5 to 12 years is
essentially negative in nature. It consists in free development of one’s organs
and in the exercises of the senses.
 Curriculum at the child stage (i.e. pre-adolescence) from 12-15 years centres
round curiously i.e. urge for knowledge.
 Curriculum at the fourth stage (i.e. adolescence) from 15-20 years emphasises
training of heart because body, senses, mind and heart constitute the whole

Since Rousseau was a champion of naturalistic education he put premium on
direct experience of the learners and castigated verbal lessons and bookish education.
The following methods are suggested by Rousseau.

Rousseau favoured learning by doing as the best method of teaching. He says,
“Teach by doing whenever you can and only fall back upon words when doing is out
of question”.


Rousseau stressed on direct experiences of the child. Child should learn from
experience and observation. He said, “Give your scholar verbal lesson. He should be
thought by experience alone”.

Rousseau believed that the child learns better through a play-way method, for it
provides a sense of joy to the child.

The word heuristic comes the Greek root ‘Harsco’ means to discover or to find.
In heuristic method, the child is to be put in the cockpit of a discoverer and he would
learn everything in a curious way.


Rousseau’s purpose in showing the dangers of the arts and the sciences is to
slow the corruption of society. By showing their dangers, he is, in one regard, simply
warning us not to pursue the arts and the sciences so eagerly.


Rousseau also argues that a potential educational reformer should consider the
effect that the arts and the sciences would have on the society in question when
determining whether or not to promote the arts and the sciences.


He disfavoured cramming method of acquiring knowledge. He rather favoured
teaching through concrete objects.

Rousseau stresses in Discourse on the Origins of Inequality that man has
strayed from the natural state of isolation in which he once lived. Rousseau argues
that this natural state of man has two basic psychological characteristics: the desire
for self preservation and the feeling of pity for others. In my philosophy class I have
coincidentally stumbled upon the roots and possible contradictions within his
Power and control over his pupil should serve as a salutary corrective to the
simplistic view of Rousseau's philosophy of education as noninterventionist an active
and interventionist role for the teacher in the process of education of the work of an


Rousseau's day greatly admired his theories, including his avocation of breast-
feeding and his concept of natural education. Today he has enormous influence on
accepted educational doctrines. Rousseau describes his methods in Emile, the story
of a boy's upbringing in natural state. Admiring his sentiment, Mary Wollstonecraft
applauded Rousseau's scheme for Emile but deplored the neglect of Emile's perfect
wife, Sophie. Her disappointment in Rousseau was a main influence on
Wollstonecraft's best-known work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Rousseau
outlines his theories for the ideal education for women in Chapter V of Emile written
between 1757 and 1761.

The following discussion throws a search light on his stellar contribution to the
fertile field of education.

 Rousseau revolted against the entire conception of education which forcing the
children to accept model of adult. His novel Emile attacks the child's depravity
theory and an extensively verbal and literary education which is expected
children to speak, think and act as miniature adult. The goal of his education is
to "create learning environment that allow the children to innate natural
goodness which rely on sensation and experience with the nature." (Course
Reading Foundation of Education, pp.134-137) He also believes that child must
be free from society imprisoning institution, of which the school was one of the
most coercive. He said that teacher can train the man or the citizen; he cannot
train natural man. His natural man was the one whose natural virtues had not
been influenced by traditional and social institution. On the other hand their
natural virtues were so developed that they were able to adapt themselves to the
changing environment. To Rousseau, education was a process of guidance by
teacher rather that instruction by him. "The role of teacher was to assist the n

nature rather than posting the convention to children". (Course Reading
Foundation of Education, pp.134-135). He was emphatic in saying that
education was a process of development into an enjoyable, rational,
harmoniously balanced, useful and hence natural life.
 He was considered among the galaxy characteristics of sexes refer to his first
principle of natural education as Rousseau understands it that sex should be
taken into account in the upbringing of boys and girls. According to him, the
nature of the two sexes is different from the beginning. That makes necessary
the corresponding the differences in their education. For this reason, he would
have the boy educated to be a complete human being with worldwide interest,
and the girl to be trained for the wifehood and motherhood.
 His emphasis on the discovery and difference in individuality refers to each
mind has a form of it own. It must be directed accordingly. Individuality he
pointed out raises many problems "one has to be flattered, another has to be
repressed. One man is made to carry human knowledge to its fathers point;
another may find the ability to read a dangerous power".
 Rousseau stress on the facts and differences of ages: at this point, Rousseau
identified five developmental stages infancy from birth to five years old, the
child make his first contact with objects in the environment and learn directly
from his senses. Childhood the age from five to twelve, the child constructs his
personality as he becomes aware that his actions cause either painful or
pleasurable consequences.
 Rousseau glorified the wholesome development of all the natural powers of the
individual. If the individual is nurtured properly so that his physical, emotional,
moral and mental capacities are allowed to develop naturally and at the proper
time, the cause of education and the society will be best served. He looked to
the individual rather than to the society to find the ultimate aims of education.
The two most famous accounts of "the state of nature" prior to Rousseau's are
those of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.
i. The concept of negative education is replete with deficiencies.
ii. Absolute freedom to the child is really a myth. It cannot exist now-a-days
in the present educational scenario.
iii. Rousseau identified five developmental stages infancy from birth to five
years old, the child make his first contact with objects in the environment
and learn directly from his senses.

Theory of education is outstanding which has its relevance and significance to
the child constructs his personality as he becomes aware that his actions cause either
painful or pleasurable consequences. Motivated by curiosity, he actively explores his
environment, learning more about the world through the forest.