Naturalism in education: Definition, meaning, and principles

Naturalism in education

This article on Naturalism in education learn about the philosophy of naturalism from an educational point of view. These philosophies are taught in education because education is a multidisciplinary domain of study. Let us now begin by first discussing what is naturalism?

Introduction to Naturalism

  • In education Philosophy of naturalism was a revolt against the stereotyped education system and against the artificiality of life.
  • Proponents of naturalism believes that it is a self-sufficient entity. According to them
    • Nature is the ultimate reality
    • Natural world is the real world
    • Nature alone consists of the answer to all philosophical problems.
  • Back to nature is the phrase to watch with naturalism philosophy.
  • Naturalism believes that nature and reality are identical and there is no reality without nature.
  • It does not believe in spiritualism and supernaturalism.
  • Material world is the real world.

Naturalism Definition

  1. Dr. Pram Nath “ Naturalism is an attitude rather than a specific system of philosophy”
  2. Thomas and Lamg “ Naturalism is opposed to idealism. It subordinates mind to matter and holds that ultimate reality in material not spiritual”
  3. Rusk’s views “Naturalism is a philosophical position adopted by those who approach philosophy from a purely scientific point of view.”
  4. RB Perry’s view “Naturalism is the philosophical generalization of science – the application of the theories of science to the problem of philosophy”

Main Characteristics of naturalism

  • Nature alone is the entire reality. Naturalism denies the existence of anything beyond nature. It says no to the supernatural phenomena.
  • Naturalism has no belief in spiritual values. Values can be subjective and relative. They can be created according to situations, needs, and conditions of life.
  • They believe scientific knowledge to be of highest worth.
  • Here society is only an artificial structure. Individuals alone are real.
  • It does not have faith in the existence of the soul, God, and the spiritual world.
  • It believes only in the existence of the material world, matter, and nature.
  • Here senses are considered the natural gateway to knowledge. Knowledge can be comprehended through senses.

Forms of naturalism

(A) Physical Naturalism

  • Studies the external nature
  • It explains human activities and experiences in terms of material objects and natural laws.
  • Lays more stress on external phenomenon then conscious human beings
  • Nature has a complete hold on the life of human beings.

(B) Mechanical Naturalism

  • regards man as machines
  • believes in behavioristic psychology
  • believes man as well as mind is matter
  • science is only a dependable form of matter.

(C) Biological naturalism

  • Based on the notion of evolution.
  • Darwin believed in the “survival of the fittest” in the evolution.
  • believes that life is ever-changing dynamic and always developing.
  • our survival depends on adjustments.
  • three principles according to biological naturalism are
    • Adaptation of environment
    • Struggle for existence
    • Survival of the fittest

Naturalism in Education

  • Naturalism has a great impact on theory as well as the practice of education.
  • In systems of educations with naturalistic philosophy, there is no place for classrooms, textbooks, time-table, formal exams, etc.
  • It stands against the present system of teaching.

(A) Main tents of naturalism

  • Reality and nature are identical. Nature is the ultimate reality of the world.
  • Have no belief in the spiritual world
  • Regards scientific knowledge as the highest value.
  • Values are subjective and relative. One has to live in harmony with nature. Values are created in terms of the need and purpose of life.
  • Naturalists are against the complex nature of civilization.
  • They advocate the inductive method where knowledge is gained through observation for the acquisition of knowledge.
  • Knowledge is comprehended through senses.
  • Laws of nature are unchangeable and the whole universe is governed by them.
  • Man is an offspring of nature not a segment of society.
  • Nature grows and evolves with the passage of time
  • Laws of nature are unchangeable and the whole universe is governed by them.
  • Man is an offspring of nature not a segment of society.
  • Nature grows and evolves with the passage of time

(B) Important characteristics of naturalistic education

  • believes that education should be in a strict agreement with the nature of the child.
  • Regards education as a natural necessity.
  • Whole of the learning comes from the experience of the child. An important place is given to the concept of freedom to live in nature without control.
  • Advocate school education and is against bookish knowledge.
  • Sensors are the gateway to knowledge. The child should be trained to function his senses effectively.
  • Believes in progressive education.

Aims of Naturalism in education

  1. Self-expression
  2. Struggle for existence
    • Education ensures survival
    • Enable children to adjust themselves to the environment
  3. Development of individuality
    • Education should aim to develop the individuality of children without any interference in society.
  4. Education for adjustment
    • Education helps children in physical and mental adjustment.
    • Education is regarded as a process of adjustment to the environment.
  5. Education according to the nature of the child.
  6. Education to achieve present and future happiness.
    • Education should help to cultivate self-restraint and values in children.
  7. Education should develop the child into a joyous, rational, and mature child.

(C) Naturalism and curriculum

  • Does not believe in a rigid and fixed curriculum.
  • Believes in inborn ability and instincts of the child.
  • Child learns best in a natural setting.

(D) Features of naturalistic curriculum

  1. Curriculum based on psychology and inborn instinct of child.
  2. Believes in the study of science subjects. Due importance is given to mathematics and languages.
  3. Study of past experiences is given due importance in the curriculum. This because our present is defined by our past. They believe that history and social studies should be included in the curriculum.
  4. Naturalism advocates the inclusion of subjects in the curriculum that promotes self-preservation.
  5. There is no place for moral religious and spiritual education.

(E) methods of teaching in naturalism

  • It rejects
    • rigid teaching methods
    • uniform
    • traditional methods of teaching
  • It does not favor classroom teaching
  • “Give your pupils no verbal lesson, they should be taught by their experiences alone” is what Rousseau said.
  • It lays emphasis on learning by doing
  • Naturalists believe that children should be encouraged to discover things on their own.
  • They are advocates of the play-way method of teaching. The Montessori method is one such method of teaching. Teaching should be a joyous, creative, and spontaneous activity.
  • According to naturalists observation and experiments in the laboratory should be important factors of teaching methodology.

(F) Naturalism and Teacher

  • Teacher plays the role of the observer in a naturalistic education scheme.
  • Teacher facilitates the learning of the child.
  • Teachers should be able to understand the child and help in the growth and development of the child.
  • Teacher’s role should be that of a stage setter. He should be able to provide material and environment to facilitate the development and learning of the child.

(G) Merits and demerits of Naturalism in education


  • It provides presents a refreshing and humanistic attitude towards teaching and learning.
  • Here children are treated as equals by adults. Their personality and individuality is respected.
  • Discipline comes in the self-imposed form rather than by constant correction or harsh attitudes by adult interference.
  • Children share freedom as well as the responsibility with adults.


  • It ignores the spiritual and moral side of human nature.
  • Its tents are applicable to all the children irrespective of their individual differences. Sometimes it is not practical to apply principles of the naturalistic approach to education in practical situations.
  • Naturalistic education practices are hard to follow in urban areas. This is because schools in urban areas are crowded, noisy, and are located in densely populated localities.
  • This approach is not suitable for a vast amount of learning which is needed in a short span of time. Sometimes it is not practical to approach learning at a leisurely pace through experience and unaided by books.

(H) Conclusion of naturalism in education

Philosophy of Naturalism in education has its own merits and demerits. It provides freedom to the learner which is unique. This approach has affected modern education and methods of teaching an inconsiderable way. It aims to make teaching real, interesting, and meaningful. It also does good to society by rejecting superstitions. Regardless of all its merits there exist certain demerits and some of its suggestions might not be practical to apply. It tends to ignore the ideals and purpose of life. It brings everything to materialism and gives no place to spiritual values.

Follow this link for Knowledge and Curriculum Notes for B.Ed.

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