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Theories and Ideas in Education

ED253, Department of Education and Psychology


Dr Konai Helu Thaman

University of the South Pacific

PO Box 1168





Welcome to ED253. This is a new course, offered for the first time in 1994. Students taking this course should have satisfactorily completed ED151 (Human Development) and ED153 (Education and Society). If you have not done these, you should withdraw from ED253.

Underlying Assumptions: The following assumptions are made in respect of the content and organisation of ED253:

1. That "education" is defined differently by different people: in other words, people hold different ideas/theories about "education."

2. That Pacific island cultures, before the coming of the Europeans, had their own notions/ideas of "education," some of which, with modifications, still exist today. Educators (including teachers) must understand these ideas if they are going to be working with Pacific island students/people;

3. That formal education (schooling) as we know it today, was introduced to PICs by early Europeans in the nineteenth century; this (Western) form of education has its own history, and ideas associated with it evolved in Europe over many centuries. Pacific island educators need to understand the history of and the different theories associated with formal education, many of which have influences to a greater or lesser degree, the way we think about education in the Pacific islands.

Course Organisation and Rationale

The first part of the course will be devoted to the study of vernacular/indigenous educational ideas and will be, where possible, based on anthropological and conceptual analysis of Pacific and other vernacular/indigenous cultures and languages. Case studies from the Pacific and abroad will be used to enhance students' own knowledge and understanding of their own indigenous education systems.

Western educational theorists/ideas, from Plato to the present, would form the rest of the course. This section would be divided into three parts: the traditionalists (e.g. Plato & Aristotle); the progressives (e.g. Rousseau and Dewey); and more recent theorists.

The final part of the course will examine the professional role of the educator/teacher and how ideas from the first two sections of the course impact upon teaching. Finally it is hoped that students would begin to theorize about their own education based on what they have learned in the course.

Although a multidisciplinary approach will be taken throughout, it is assumed that the psychological and sociological foundations of (modern) education would have been adequately dealt within ED151 and ED153 respectively. Consequently ED253 would take a more historical and philosophical approach to the themes to be examined.

Courses Aims

1. To develop among students, knowledge and appreciation of their own (indigenous) cultures' notions of and beliefs about education.

2. To develop among students, knowledge and appreciation of the history and traditions of modern (Western) education.

3. To help students develop their own theories of education based on their knowledge of and experiences in a synthesis of traditional and modern ideas.

Course Assessment

Coursework: 50% of final grade consisting of:

Major Project 20%
Two Objective Type Tests 20%
Tutorial Exercises 100%


Final Examination: 50% of final grade. Minimum mark of 16 out of 50 (or 40%) is required for passing the course.

Course Text

a. Sutherland, M. Theory of Education, 1988.

b. Collection of Readings. Students will be expected to purchase this in order to cover photocopying costs.

Lecture Times: Mon 11-12; Thur. 12-1

Tutorials: Tues 3-4; Thur. 1-2, Fri. 10-11


Week Theme Lecturer
1 General Admin. Thaman
2 Language and Learning Benson
3 Indigenous/Vernacular Educ Thaman
4 Schooling Thaman
5 Case Studies of Vernacular Ideas Thaman
6 Fijian Notions of Education Nabobo
7 I-Kiribati Notions of Education Teaero
8 Mid-Semester Break  
9 Western Traditionalists (Test I) Thaman
10 Western Progressives Thaman
11 Western Behaviorists Herramann/Thaman
12 Third World Educational Thinkers Thaman
13 Theorising teaching/learning Thaman
14 (Project Completion) Students
15 Revision (Test 2) Thaman






a. Identify the main ideas of your home/vernacular culture. You may do this by trying to examine the words or terms that commonly used to refer to concepts such as learning, teaching, knowledge, wisdom, education, training, etc (5 points)

b. For each of the above coucepts or ideas, say whether the context(s) in which the term is used has anything to do with worthwhile learning (i.e, whether it is educational); and also, what the term implies, or assume. See Thaman's article on Tongan notions of education for an example of what to do (8 points).

c (What do you consider to be the main differences between the educational ideas you have described for your vernacular culture and that of school (formal) education (7 points).



Select an educational thinker that you have studied this semester.

a. Briefly outline his/her home or cultural background (5 points).

b. Describe the main characteristic of his/her educational ideas, paying particular attention to his/her views on learning and teaching (7 points)

c. Critically examine the thinker's ideas and/or theories in terms of this relevance to: i) the home cultures of learners in your country; and, ii) considerations of gender equity in your country (8 points).


Projects must preferably be typed on A 4 paper. Approx. length - 4-5 pages. All projects are expected to be completed by the due date; later projects may not be marked.


upload: 03/01/2000

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