What Does It Mean to Educate the Whole Child?

Published 27 Mar 2017

A society that exercise democracy should have schools that provides more to students—schools that teaches not only the basic skills or plainly academics but also teaching things that a child should learn in order to become a good citizen of that society. In the case of public schools in the United States today, they are under pressure. They have to show that every student is provided with thorough and efficient education through their test scores. As stated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), they also consider it as one of their goals. Aside from that, they also want to educate many of the inner city and minority children. However, there are a lot of criticisms about NCLB as an institution.

Critics say that it has an unattainable goal; undesirable methods of motivating its students; overdependence on standardized examinations; demoralizing effects; and influences of corruption on the administration, teachers, and students. Moreover, NCLB is having problems on addressing Educational Leadership. They still have to consider the aims of education, know how to serve the society, and most importantly know how to educate the whole child.

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The aims of education are not standard or universal. It changes in every society through time. However, it should be clear that education should provide not only proficiency in mathematics and reading but also provides the knowledge in other aspects that a whole child should learn. Though, this idea is being argued by some people. They believe that there should be other institutions held responsible for these non-academic aspects. These people, according to Noddings, are not considering the history of education. If we will trace it, we would be able to know that public schools were established for academic instruction as well as for moral and social reasons. Another thing is that education thinkers came about with multiple aims of education.

The author of this article suggested happiness to be another aim in educating the whole child. Prior to this, great thinkers have associated this proposed aim to effective social relationships basically or starting with the family. One purpose of this aim is to make classrooms as happy places for the children.

Reviewing the aims of education guides the people concerned on instructional decisions. It also makes them open minded and reminds them the importance of having a curriculum, objectives in learning, appropriate methods of teaching, etc. More importantly, it also emphasizes that students are also whole persons. Thus, the total development of the children must be a great concern for schools. They need holistic treatment as demanded by massive human problems of the society.

In a democratic society, schools are established not only to serve individuals but also the larger society. Thus, graduate students should not only possess academic intelligence but also a sound character. This could be made possible by having additional activities like art exhibits, sports fest, plays, or simply relating the basic academic lessons to real life situations. This is learning conceptually and practically at the same time.

This article tackles significant points on what schools should consider in order to educate their students properly. This would help the principal of the curriculum leadership to think of new possible ways on educating the whole child considering other knowledge that would develop the children as a whole person. They would be able to see the importance of learning or the large role of schools in the lives of its students. We all know that once a child becomes a student, he or she will be spending more time in school than his or her home. After learning from their parents, the next group of people to be responsible for the child’s development is the school institution. They are the ones who will continue to build the character of the child.

It is good that this article was able to mention some of the things that a child should also learn in school and thus, should be a part of their curriculum. However, if all the points in the article will be analyzed, there are some statements or information from the past that should not be compared with the present situation of public schools. It contradicts with the early statements of the article saying that aims of education are not universal. It changes through time as ideals of a particular society also changes so we cannot compare the past situations to the present. However, if the article will be examined generally, it could serve as a wake-up call to academic institutions in properly educating their students because these children will be the next citizens or even leaders of the next generation. The things that the children have learned in school will be the things that they will use in his or her future.


  • Nel Noddings, “What does it mean to Educate the Whole Child?,” Educational Leadership, Volume 63, Issue No.1. (2005): 1-5.
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