Comprehensive Essay on Froebel’s Educational Philosophy

Froebel (1783-1852) was a great educator of Germany. He also had. A neglected childhood and boyhood, and so he had to roam about from place to place, learning, studying and trying various professions.

Friedrich Froebel's Gift to the Occupation of Art Education ...

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He also started his own schools in Switzerland and Germany but these could be flourishing for want of proper finances and because of official restrictions.

He, however, brought out his world famous books on education during this period which include “The Education of Man”, “Pedagogies of Kindergarten”, “Mother Plays and Nursery Songs” and “Education by Development”. These books mainly deal with the education of children, below the age of seven years.


1. His Philosophy

Froebel’s philosophy is of absolute idealism. He mainly pressed two great things, namely, his ‘idea of unity in diversity’ and his ‘theory of development’.

With regard to the former, he viewed this whole universe as a unity from God-the Absolute. In his book, “The Education of Man”, he remarked, “The whole world-the All, the Universe-is a single great organism in which an eternal uniformity manifests itself.

This principle of uniformity expresses itself as much in external nature as in spirit. Life is the union of the spiritual with the material. Without mind of spirit, matter is lifeless, it remains formless, and it is mere chaos.


Only through the entrance of the spiritual into the material, does the cosmos originate….Every creature; object is matter, informed by spirit. God is the presupposition, the condition of their existence.

Without God, they would not exist. God is the only ground of all things. God is the all-comprehending, the all-sustaining. God is the essential nature, the meaning of the world.

He further says, “All things have come from the Divine Unity (God) and have their origin in the Divine Unity. The Divine affluence that lives in each thing is the essence of each thing.”

With this belief Froebel formulated the principle that there is unity of man, nature and God. Men must be aware of this Absolute Unity of Universe. The real purpose of education was “to expand or develop the life of an individual until it comprehends this existence through participation in all-pervading spiritual activity.”


Regarding his theory of development, he said that there is an absolute goal towards which all things are growing. This absolute goal is realized through the presentation of symbols, representing the various aspects of the Absolute. These symbols are called “gifts” which we shall discuss later.

Development can be produced only by the exercise or use of faculty; physical, mental or spiritual. If mind is to be developed, it should be exercised and so is with the development of the body. Effective development is possible only if the exercise arises from the thing’s own activity.

“Each individual must develop from within, self-active and free, in accordance with the eternal law, because full development comes only by spontaneous self-activity”. Froebel advocates balanced and unified development of body, mind and soul.

2. His Concept and Aims of Education

To Froebel, education is growth from within. It is a development by which an individual realizes that he is one unit of the all-encompassing unity.

“It is development by which man’s life broadens until it has related itself to nature; until it enters sympathetically into all activities of society, until it, participates in the achievements of the race and aspirations of humanity.”

Education is to unfold the child’s innate powers and awaken his spiritual nature so that he may have a spiritual union with God.

Regarding the functions of education, Froebel remarks, “Education should lead and guide man to clearness, concerning him and in himself, to peace with nature, and to unity with God. It should life him to knowledge of himself and of mankind, to knowledge of God and a nature and to the pure and holy life.”

As regards the aims of education, Froebel wants all-round development of the individual, so that he may be able to express the spiritual, the Divine that slumbers in him.

Like Rousseau, Froebel education should lead to moral improvement, religious uplift and spiritual insight. Then the child will be able to realize that he is component of all-pervading spirit, which is Absolute Unity.

Finally, education should enable the child to enter sympathetically into all activities of society and participate freely in its achievements and aspirations.

3. Froebel’s Kindergarten

Froebel, however, attached great importance to education in the child’s early life. He thought that if the education of pre-school years was not properly reformed, no tangible improvement could be made in school education.

This led him to establish a school for small children between the ages of three and seven. This school was named “kindergarten” or the garden of children. The chief characteristics of the kindergarten are:

(i) Self-Activity

Self-activity is spontaneous in which the child carries out his own impulses and motives. Such activity directs the growth of the child along the lines of racial development. So it merges the individual spirit with the spirit of humanity.

Self-activity, in fact, is self-realization through which the child comes to know of his own nature as well as the life around him.

Thus, self-activity not only fills the gap between knowledge and action but also gives joy, freedom, contentment and peace of mind. Self-activity is promoted through song, movements and construction.

(ii) Creativeness

Child is creative by nature. If he is given some material, he will at once try to create new forms and combinations with that material. “Since God created man in his own image, man should also create and bring forth like God,” Froebel also believes that every man’s mind, soul and hand are inseparable, although they are independent parts of him.

Mind and soul express themselves through physical activity and expression. It is, therefore, that thinking must express itself in doing, otherwise education will remain unproductive.

(iii) Social Participation

Froebel believes that man is essentially a social animal by nature. It is the primary instinct of man to live in the company of other persons.

So unlike Rousseau, he emphasized the social aspect of education and advocated that home, school, church, vocation and the state, should all provide opportunities to children for social participation.

By participating in co-operative activities, the child not only receives physical training but also intellectual, social and moral education.

4. Methods of Teaching in the Kindergarten

Froebel’s Kindergarten is a miniature state for children in which they move freely and joyfully, of course, with due consideration for each other. There are no books prescribed.

The entire school programme gives training in self-expression through song, movement and construction. Out of these three, the child automatically learns the proper use of language.

But these three modes of expression are not generally separated from one another, but they often go together, so that the entire process may become one organic whole.

For instance, when a story is told or read, it is expressed in a song, dramatized in movements and gestures and finally illustrated by construction work from blocks, paper, clay, drawing or other material.

Through such a procedure, “thoughts are stimulated, imagination vivifies, hands and eyes trained, muscles coordinated, and moral nature strengthened.”

5. Teaching through Songs.

In the Kindergarten, education is generally imparted through songs. It is, therefore, that songs are included in the daily school programme. All the songs, selected and included by Froebel, are about the common objects of life.

They relate to nursery games and satisfy some physical, intellectual or moral needs of children. These are arranged no accordance with the development of the child.

Each such song has three parts (i) a motto for the mother’s guidance (ii) a verse for singing to the child and (iii) a picture illustrating the verse. There are in all fifty play songs of this type. Besides these play-songs, Froebel also devised such nursery rhymes, as “Jack and Jill”, “Humpty Dumpty” and “Cinderella”.

The main aim is to enable the child to use his senses, limbs and muscles and to make him familiar with the objects, around him.

6. Teaching through Gifts and Occupations

Gifts and occupations of Froebel are the most conspicuous contribution to the methodology of nursery education. Gifts are simple educational toys which are presented to the child in a definite order, without charging their forms.

The child is given the freedom to handle them in any way, he likes.-while gifts signify the material, occupations represent activities which are suggested by that material and which can be continued with its help.

Gifts are in the shape of wooden balls of different colors, wooden spheres, cubes and cylinders of different types and sizes. Additional gifts are in the form of wooden squares, triangles, tables, sticks and rings. Occupations include activities like construction with paper, clay, wood and materials.

It may, however, be noted that gifts and occupations have a definite purpose behind them. They train the senses of sight and touch. They give the idea of size, form and surface. They also develop the number sense and artistic consciousness.

In this way they facilitate further instruction in Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Drawing. And as Rusk says, “By his methodological arrangement of the gifts and occupations, Froebel nevertheless founded a new type of educational institution and although his system too readily lent itself to formalism by later generations of teachers who had not the spirit of the natter, it ameliorated the lot of countless children.”

7. Teaching through Play

About play, Froebel remarks, “Play is the characteristic activity of childhood. It is the highest phase of child-development-of human development to this period, for it is self-active representation or the inner-representation of the inner form, inner necessity and impulse.

Play is the purest, most spiritual activity of man at this stage and at the same time, typical of human life as a whole-of the inner, natural life in man and all things. It gives, therefore, joy, freedom, contentment, inner and outer rest and peace with the world. It holds the source of all that is good.”

It is through play that the child discloses his real self and clearly indicates his interests. So Froebel gives a prominent place to Play activities in his Kindergarten system. He has rather based the educational process in early years on play.

He utilizes play for cultivating in child the habits of action, feeling and thinking. Courage, instinct and motivation are also developed through play. But Froebel’s play activities are all very well-directed and guided by the teacher.

8. Other Subjects of the Curriculum

Besides spontaneous self-activity and play activities, Froebel has also recommended manual work, nature study, natural sciences, languages, art and religious instruction.

About the inclusion of manual work, Froebel says, “Scholastic education of our times leads children to indolence and laziness and a vast amount of man-power remains undeveloped and is lost.

Manual work is necessary condition of the realization of pupil’s personality; through it, he comes to himself.” Nature study creates a sense of wonder and admiration in the minds of children for the work of God and, therefore, he believed that it would result in religious uplift and spiritual insight.

Natural sciences including Mathematics, which gives an insight into the laws that govern human life Languages, establish the inner living connection among the diversities of things. Art activities like singing, drawing, painting, clay-modeling, wood-work and leather-work provide the soul with opportunities for expression in those outward forms.

9. Role of the Teacher

Teacher in the Kindergarten acts as a gardener, whose function is to see that young plants (small children) under her care grow according to their own natural course of development.

Froebel compares young growing children with plants and, therefore, he asks the teachers to let the children grow and develop in accordance with their natural endowments.

He says, “The tree germ bears within itself the nature of the whole tree. So the development and formation of the whole future life of each is contained in the beginning of its existence.”

So the teacher is instructed not to distort the natural endowments, powers and tendencies of children by undue and willful interference in their activities.

The teacher is simply to redirect the child’s growth to natural direction when she feels that the child is going astray. According to Froebel, education is controlled development so it is the duty of the teacher to control this process.

10. Discipline

Discipline, according to Froebel, is not a set of rules and regulations, imposed upon children. It is a way of living

(vi) Play-Way in Education

Modern educators stress that children should be taught through play-way. It was Froebel who based all the early education of the child on play by identifying play and work as one.

This doctrine of play forms the centre of modern education and has had the greatest influence on educational theory and practice. In modem progressive schools, the project and other new methods as well as all types of experimental and creative activities are based on play-way.

(vii) Emphasis on Sense-Training

For sharpening the intelligence of pupils, Froebel emphasized sense-training, against merely verbal instruction. Since senses are the gateways of learning, their training must form the first step in the child’s education. Froebel’s gifts and occupations are especially devised for training the senses of children.

(viii) Inclusion of Nature Study in Curriculum

Froebel gave new stimulus to the aims and methods of teaching Nature Study. He regarded the study of nature as a means of realizing the presence of the all-pervading Diving Spirit, in the Natural phenomena.

It is, therefore, that he recommends the study of nature page to page, as a living expression of Divine life. His main aim of including this subject in the school curriculum was moral and religious uplift of the child, by coming into contact with nature.

Thus, we can conclude by saying that Froebel’s Kindergarten system aims at the complete development of the individual child. “It is by far the most original, attractive and philosophical form of infant development, the world has yet seen.” This is the only reason why fits system has now spread in all the progressive countries of the world.

Some critics of Froebel say that tiny rots of three or four years cannot understand his philosophic principle of “Organic Unity”. Then symbolism involved in gifts is also too difficult to be understood bynature brains.

Furthermore, there is no correlation in the subject’s activities in the Kindergarten system. Everything is taught in the defect pointed out by them is that Froebel stresses sociological aspect to the neglect of the child’s individuality.

The main contributions of Madam Montessori to the science and art of education

Madam Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian lady-doctor, who later became a world famous educationist. She entered the field of education through her interest in mentally deficient children.

She studied those children very intensively and reached the conclusion that mental deficiency was due to dullness of senses and that if their senses could be properly trained, those children could acquire some knowledge.

She actually succeeded when she tried the experiment. This led her to employ that very method on educating normal children and she achieved far better results. Thus, her approach to education is scientific and rational as against that of Froebel’s metaphysical. She is the originator of the ‘Montessori Method’.

1. Concept and Aims of Education

According to Madam Montessori, “Education is the active help given to the normal expansion of the life of the child.” She said that every child is different from others, physically as well as mentally.

Each has peculiar powers and endowments. So the child’s individuality must not be crushed or suppressed through collective teaching. Each child should be paid individual attention and allowed to progress at his own pace.

Education should enable each child to adjust himself to his immediate environment. She wanted that each child should develop from within and not from without. Education should guide the process of unfolding the hidden powers of the child in a way that he becomes what he is destined to become.

2. Principle of Montessori System of Education

The important principles of the Montessori System are:

(a) The Principle of Individuality. As we have stated above. Montessori believed that each child has got his own pecan interest, aptitude, capacities and endowments. He doing which gives children a strong will.

In the Kindergarten, discipline is of protective and co-operative type. Spontaneous and play activities, games and stories, art and crafts, gifts and occupations, all provide sound physical and mental training to children and teach them discipline.

Contribution of Froebel to educational theory and practice

Froebel’s Kindergarten system attracted the attention of the educational world to the proper education and training of pre- school-going-age children. Although this stage is the most important stage of child development, yet its education was so far neglected altogether.

The Kindergarten system soon became very popular throughout Europe and now it has firmly established itself in the shape of reformed nursery schools throughout the civilized world. Froebel has really shown the right road to further advance. His main contribution to educational theory and practice is as follows:

(i) Emphasis on Nursery Education

As we have stated above, it was Froebel who greatly emphasized the importance of pre-school education. He often said, “All school education was yet without a proper initial foundation and until the education of the nursery was reformed, nothing solid and worthy could be attained.

“He was a great lover of young growing children. So he made a minute study of their nature, aptitudes, interests and endowments and then gave to the world a theory and practice of education for the pre­school period, which had very largely been neglected so far.

(ii) Respect for the Child’s Individuality

All the modem educators have a great respect for the child’s individuality. They consider the school as a “temple where they are to pay homage to the individuality of the child”.

But it was Froebel who first realised the value of “discovering and developing individuality by means of initiative, execution and co-operation in the educational process.” It is in the wake of Froebel that modem educators recognize the child’s individuality and work it out by means of the child’s own initiative and effort.

(iii) Self-Activity in Education

Although the concept of education as a process of learning through self-activity not original, yet Froebel by making spontaneous inner activity of the child as the very basis of all learning attached a new value to the native capacities of children in scheme of studies.

He said that children were not only receptive of knowledge; they were also very active in the expression. So at the pre-school stage they should be allowed to see, handle, arrange, rearrange, make and unmake things themselves.

(iv) Learning through Arts and Crafts

Modern progressive schools fully recognize that creativeness is a great incentive to work and to learn. So the child is made to create and construct things with his own labor and effort.

In Basic education also a great stress is paid on learning through arts and crafts. It was Froebel, who was an early advocate of the inclusion of manual work in the school curriculum.

In “The Education of Man,” he says, “Manual work is a necessary condition of the realization of the child’s personality. Through it he comes to himself.” So he included various arts and crafts like drawing, painting, wood-work, and leather-work, clay-modeling, paper-cutting, card-board work and embroidery etc., in pre-school education.

(v) Sociological Aspect of Education

By laying stress upon activity and social participation and by transforming school into a miniature society where children develop the power of doing things in a social atmosphere, Froebel brought sociological aspect of education into limelight. It is this aspect which is greatly emphasized in modem education.

Froebel wanted education to fit the individual for full life within the group, so that he may adjust himself properly to his physical and social environment. For this purpose, recommends that primary virtues like co-operation, sympathy, fellow-feeling and responsibility be developed in children in the school community.

So Froebel is looked upon as the father of sociological trend in education. Training in liberty, for freedom According to Montessori, does not consist in having others at one’s command to perform the ordinary services, but in being able to do these oneself and in being independent of others.

Montessori has also devised certain formal gymnastic exercises, which develop coordinated movements in the child. For these exercises she has also devised special apparatus. Muscular education and training is given through walking, holding objects and hand-work, Rhythmic exercises are also provided. These exercises not only make children healthy but also give them training for practical life. _

(b) Exercises for Sense-Training. Montessori attached more importance to sensory training than learning, thinking or reasoning. She, therefore, devised apparatus for providing exercises in sense-training. The Didactic Apparatus sharpens the pupils’ senses and accelerates learning.

The varied material includes blocks, cylinders, paper, cabinets; coins, tables, pencils and wools of different colors, boxes, balls, cubes, rods, and water of different temperatures. This material is meant to give perception of size, form, weight, touch, hearing and color etc.

The sense of touch is developed by presenting water at different temperatures to the child. Sand-papers of graded roughness are also used for this purpose. Perception of size is developed through handling a series of wooden cylinders of varying heights and diameters. Series of blocks and rods of graded diameters are also used for this purpose.

Sense of hearing is developed through boxes, containing pebbles and other sound-producing material. Sense of weight is cultivated through blocks and tables of wood of varying weights. Colour sense is trained through samples of wood of different colors, arranged and graded according to the depth of colour, as we have already stated under the ‘Principle of Self-education’.

(c) Didactic Exercises for Teaching 3R’s. After sensory training, children are taught reading, writing and arithmetic.

In her system writing starts before reading. For this purpose, she depends upon the psychological principle of “Transfer of Training”. In her own words, “Preparatory movements could be converted and reduced to a mechanism by means of repeated exercises, not in the work itself, but in that which prepares for it.”

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