What are the Three Sources of Education According to Rousseau?

At the outset of his book “Emile” Rousseau states that education comes from nature, from men and from things. In other words, the problem of education is the relationship of man to his physical and social environment.

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Explaining these sources of education, he says, “The internal development of our organs and faculties is the education of nature; the use we are taught to make of that development, is the education given by men; and the acquisition made by our own experience on the objects that surround us, is our education from things.” In other words, by education from nature, he meant development according to the child’s natural endowments and capacities.

By education from men, he emphasized the importance of social environment, teaching how to make use of that development. By education from things, he understood physical environment helping to gain experience by ourselves. He says that the harmonious development of these three factors constituted an ideal scheme of education.


Such harmony in education is possible by subordinating the education of men and things to that of nature because we have no control over nature. We must, therefore, direct the other two, to ensure cooperation of these three factors for imparting ideal education.

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