The Meaning of Naturalism and their Views on Education for 2022 and 2023

The Meaning of Naturalism and their Views on Education for 2022 and 2023


The word naturalism believes that people are restricted to the phenomenal world of scientific education (Morrish, 1967). The term naturalism can also be called materialism (Singh, 2007).  Jean Jacques Rousseau was one of the famous nature philosophers of the 18th century. The theory of naturalism revolves around nature.

The naturalists emphasized the nature of the child. According to the naturalist education should be according to the nature of the child, Rousseau has played a great role in this regard (Sahu, 2002). In 1759, Rousseau published his famous book “Emile” which contained Rousseau’s ideas on naturalism. Emile means boy in French. In this novel, Rousseau focuses on the private education of the boy (Shahid, 2000). Rousseau considered the world as an artificial, autocratic, egotistic, and arrogant place and Rousseau believed that education should be given according to the natural interest of the child aiming at a holistic development of the personality. Nature is the best teacher and means of education according to Rousseau (Singh, 2007).

Rousseau’s philosophy of education is naturalistic (Shahid, 2000). According to naturalists education is the process of development of natural life (Seetharamu, 2004).  Rousseau believed that education does not only mean memorizing or storing information and knowledge rather it is the process that results in the development of the child’s nature and personality internally. Rousseau’s philosophy of education best ensures that the pupil will absorb information and concepts.  (Shahid, 2000). Naturalism states that parents are natural teachers and there is no need for the institutions such as schools (Pathak, 2007).

A child is a child and not an adult in the making. This is believed by naturalistic education (Singh, 2007). The focus of Emile is upon the individual tuition of a boy in line with the principles of ‘natural education’. The character of Emile begins learning important moral lessons from his infancy, through childhood, and into early adulthood.

Naturalism and the Curriculum:

According to naturalists curriculum must be child-centered according to the present and future needs of the child (Pathak, 2007). Naturalists have divided the curriculum into two stages, the earlier stage, and the later stage. In the early stage sensory training is given to the child. The child’s senses are properly exercised; the child develops physically and also develops natural habits. At the later stage the naturalists included in the curriculum subjects such as physical sciences, language, mathematics, social studies, anatomy, and other subjects (Seetharamu, 2004). Manual work, trade, history aesthetics, physical culture, music, and drawing are also included in the curriculum. Moral education also begins the part of the curriculum is given through activities and occupations but not through lectures on ethics (Shahid, 2000).

Stages of Education:

According to Rousseau, there are four stages in education:

  1. i. Infancy: When the child is at this stage, the child is not mature. Infants’ psychology is totally different from the adults. At this stage the child can be taught through normal conversation (Chandra and Sharma, 2006).
  2. Childhood: Rousseau believed that child should not be given books up till the age of twelve. The child must learn through experience. The child learns naturally through his own actions and starts developing the ability of reasoning (Chandra and Sharma, 2006).

iii. Adolescence: At this stage, the child can be taught formal education. The child is exposed to various subjects such as physical sciences, language, mathematics, social studies and music, drawing, and some kind of professional training. According to Rousseau, education should be given through activities and not by books because activities give more knowledge than books (Chandra and Sharma, 2006).

  1. Youth: At this stage, special emphasis is laid on moral and religious education. Moral education can also be derived through actual experience.  Religious education can be taught through the teachings of history, mythological stories, and religious stories (Chandra and Sharma, 2006).

Aims of Education:

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Naturalism gives different ideas about the aims of education. In the opinion of Rousseau, education is aimed at the inner faculties, capacities, and powers of the child (Shahid, 2000). According to Rousseau, the aim of education is not preparation for life, but participation in it. Each stage through which a child passes has a specific aim of education and these aims differ according to the stage.

The aim of education during the first stage of a child is to gain knowledge and to all the wants and needs of a child to be fulfilled. The second aim of education is to provide the child with the strength that the child lacks of the ability to be free (Khalid, 1998). In the third stage, the aim of education is to enable the child to acquire useful knowledge which would satisfy the child’s wants. The aim of education is to develop the child emotionally and morally according to the child’s needs (Shahid, 2000).


Assessment of naturalism can be done by looking at its merits and demerits of it. The demerits of naturalism are that it emphasizes too much nature and natural development. The aims of education of naturalism are one-sided and unsatisfying. So much emphasis is given to present needs which will avoid the preparation of the people for the future. Books are given no emphasis which is not good because books play a great role in the development of the personality (Shahid, 2000).

The merits of naturalism are that it is a child-centered process of education. It emphasizes the natural interests and capacities of the children. It focuses on learning from the experience of the children so that the child is educated to solve all the problems of life successfully. Naturalism brings a variety of teaching methods that are effective (Shahid, 2000).

There are many merits of naturalism in the field of education and provides many valuable conclusions.

Naturalism in Education:

Naturalism as a philosophy of education has exercised a great influence on the theory and practice of education. “It decries all external restraint in education and it condemns all unnecessary formalities in education. In the naturalistic system of education, there is no place for classrooms, textbooks, timetables, formal lessons, curricula or examinations. The ‘chalk and talk’ method has no scope. The teacher has no significant role to play. External discipline has no place in the naturalistic system of education.

The only discipline applied in this system is the discipline of natural consequences. Naturalism has no faith in formal education. To naturalists, formal education is artificial and vicious. A good education can be had only by direct contact with nature. Naturalism in education stands for the doctrine of “follow nature” in education. It wants all education to be in strict conformity with the nature of the child. It stands for complete freedom to be given to the child in learning. He is to be left alone, absolutely free. Let him learn from the pages of nature without interference from any quarter. He is to be thrown into Nature as an explorer and discoverer.

Naturalism and Aims of Education:

  1. Naturalists differ with regard to the aim of education. Under the naturalistic school of philosophy, the aim of education is self-expression. Some naturalists consider man as a machine and they opine that the aim of education is to make the human machine as perfect and efficient as possible.
  2. According to Spencer, self-preservation and self-satisfaction constitute the highest good in life and, hence, primitive instincts and natural impulses should be used in such a way that this highest good can be achieved.
  3. McDougall (1871-1938), the famous exponent of the Naturalistic school of psychology, does not accept the theory of pleasure. He holds that our instincts are to be directed towards certain natural goals. Hence the aim of education, according to him, is the sublimation of the native instincts and energies of the individual — the redirection, coordination, and harmonious working of the native impulses.
  4. According to the Darwinian school of naturalists, the aim of education should be to “equip the individual for the struggle for existence and thus to ensure his survival.” According to the Lamarckians, education should enable the individual to adjust himself to the environment. The individual must be “in harmony with and well-adapted to his surroundings.”
  5. T. P. Nunu considers “harmonious, natural and autonomous development of the individual in a natural setting” as the central aim of education. Thus he regards the development of individuality as the supreme aim of education.
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In support of this, he says “the proper goal of human life is the perfection of the individual.” But, at the same time, he considers that this development of individuality should not be at the cost of social interests. Every individual has a social self. Individuality develops in and through society. Hence individual and social interests can be compromised by the recognition of universal values in a man.

Naturalism and Curriculum:

The naturalistic aims of education are reflected in its curriculum. Naturalists strongly advocate the inclusion of natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, zoology, and botany in the curriculum. As regards language and mathematics, they opine that only such knowledge of these subjects should be acquired as is essential for scientific studies. They also want that the pupil should not to be plunged into poetry and literature.

Naturalists not only emphasize the present but also the past and the future. They are in favour of the inclusion of history in the curriculum as it deals with the cultural heritage of the race. History helps to understand the present in the light of the past and leads to the future.

Naturalism does not attach much importance to spiritualism or religion in the curriculum. At the same time, it does not include music and painting in the curriculum.

The naturalists differ in their opinion in respect of curriculum. Comenius wanted that all subjects should be taught to all men. But Locke did not agree with this view and said it is not possible to teach all subjects to all. Hence only those subjects should be taught which are necessary. Spencer advocates that only those subjects should be included in the curriculum that minister to self-preservation as it is the first law of life.

Naturalism and Methods of Teaching:

Naturalists follow a naturalistic philosophy of teaching. According to naturalists, people learn more through direct experience that is by doing rather than by reading books. Rousseau argued not to use any book in the childhood and boyhood stages (Shahid, 2000). Another method is Heuristic method which means to find or to discover, the children are provided with situations and opportunities and the children search. Naturalists stress direct methods of teaching. Teaching through things rather than words is given importance (Saho, 2002). Rousseau emphasized the two-way play method of teaching, learning by doing, during play also child learns a lot and is educated (Khalid, 1998).

In methods of teaching, naturalism is a revolt against the old, traditional, and bookish system of education. It, therefore, attaches no importance to formal schools and textbooks as these hinder the natural development of children. It condemns note-learning and encourages learning by doing. They emphasize auto-education and self-development, and learning through the personal experience of the child. The creed of the naturalists is “follow nature” as it supplies all laws of learning. The naturalist method is to gather direct experience from nature, men, and things. Rousseau’s advice was: “Give your scholar no verbal lessons, he should be taught by experience alone.” All knowledge must emerge from actual life situations and experiences.

According to naturalists the proper method of imparting scientific knowledge is through observation and experimentation. They decry the “chalk and talk method”. Let the child discover the truth. This was the advice of the naturalists. They advocated a heuristic method. Pedocentricism was the keynote of the naturalistic method.

Naturalism and the Teacher

The educator should not interfere in the natural development of the child. He should not impose ideals or ideas on him. He is only to help the child in the discovery of truth. He should a have critical and scientific bent of mind and supreme reverence for truth. The educator must see that the child develops freely. He should not make an artificial effort to educate the child. He has to provide suitable opportunities and create conditions that are conducive to the natural development of the child.

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The place of the educator is not primary but secondary. He is an observer of the child’s development rather than a giver of information. The child’s education is the free development of his interests and motives. The role of the educator is that of a friend, philosopher, and guide. Such a role of the teacher is advocated by all modern educators and in all the modern methods of teaching. Rousseau, Fichte, Montessori, and Ross are in favour of the non-intervention of the teacher in the education of the child.

Naturalism and Discipline:

For the harmonious development of the child, he should be given the freedom to plan his own activities. But this freedom means individual freedom and not social freedom. To regulate the school society, the government is required, but it must be self-government. Naturalists have no faith in the discipline based on external force. They condemn corporal punishment as it represses the impulses and instincts of the children. Naturalism stands for a “hands-off’ policy in education. The only discipline to be applied is the discipline of natural consequences. The child should be left perfectly free to act in any way he likes and then face the consequences of his actions.

Limitations of Naturalism:

  1. Naturalism has its own limitations and disadvantages. It altogether ignores the spiritual and moral aspects of human nature. It totally neglects the moral development of the child.
  2. Naturalism takes into account only the present needs of the child and ignores his future needs and the ultimate goals and purposes of man’s life.
  3. Naturalism leaves the child purely to the discipline of natural consequences which, often, involves grave risks.
  4. Naturalism throws the teacher with superior knowledge and experience into the background. He takes a secondary position in the educative process.
  5. Naturalism allows complete freedom to the child from the very start of his life, even when he has not yet learned the right use of freedom. This is no doubt a very risky experiment inasmuch as sometimes absolute freedom degenerates into license. In the early stage of life, some guidance is necessary.

Contribution of Naturalism:

Naturalism has tremendously influenced modern educational theories and practices.

Its permanent contributions to the field of education may be summed up:

  1. “Follow nature” is the watchword of naturalism. The innate nature of the child should be developed in the natural environment and not in the artificial atmosphere of the school.
  2. Instincts, impulses, and emotions should form the basis of all education of the child. According to naturalists, instincts should be the main instrument of education.
  3. Pedocentricism is another important contribution of naturalists in the field of education. In the educative process, the child takes the pivotal position. “It is the child himself rather than the educator, the school, the book, or the subjects of study that should be in the foreground of the educational picture.” Children should be treated as children and not as adults in miniature.
  4. The freedom of the child is another important feature of naturalistic education. The child should grow freely according to his own nature and pace without interference from the educator or the parents. True education takes place when the nature, powers, and inclinations of the child are allowed to develop freely with a minimum of guidance. Naturalists strongly advocate freedom for the child.
  5. Senses are the gateways of knowledge. Education is very much effective when it comes through sensory channels. As such, naturalists consider the training of the senses very important.


Naturalism has secured freedom for the child and has further succeeded in freeing the child from many a tyranny of rigidity, interference, and strict discipline. Naturalism has given an impetus to new psychological methods in education. Self-expression, following nature, auto-education, play-way, Pedocentricism, sense-training, self-discipline, and learning by doing are some of the main characteristics of modern education.


Chandra, S. S. & Sharma, R. K. (2006). Philosophy of education. New Delhi: Atlantic.

Khalid, T. (1998). Education: An introduction to educational philosophy and history.

 Karachi: S. M. Printers.

Morrish, I. (1967). Disciplines of education. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Pathak, R. P. (2007). Philosophical and sociological perspectives of education. New Delhi:


Sahu, B. (2002). The new educational philosophy. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons.

Seetharamu, A. S. (2004). Philosophies of Education. Delhi: J. N. Printers.

Shahid, S. M. (2000). History and philosophy of education. Lahore: Majeed Book Depot.

Singh, Y. K. (2007). The philosophical foundation of education: New Delhi: APH Publishing


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