What Is A Progressive School? We Got the Answers Straight From the Teachers Themselves!

More and more these days I hear the term ‘progressive’–progressive schools, progressive education, progressive teaching–and to be honest, I don’t really know what they mean. During our time, there were fewer choices for education. We usually went to the schools our parents went to or ones that were referred by family and friends. We were placed in a class of 40, the teacher was the center of our world, and we took tests and exams for our final grades. Now, with the growth of progressive schools, there are a lot more options to choose from. And if your child is at that age when he or she is about to enter school for the first time, I think that it’s important to study and understand the types of schools that are available for him or her. So, I’ve asked some of the founders and faculty members of Glebe House Manila, Keys School ManilaSummit School, and The Sycamore some questions to try and help you out.

Baby and Breakfast: Parenthood What Is A Progressive School? We Got the Answers Straight From the Teachers Themselves


What makes a school progressive?

“If a traditional school has the teacher at its center, the progressive school is centered around the child. ‘Progressive’ is a broad and possibly misunderstood term that has many different philosophies, but in general the emphasis of a progressive school is one that is child centered.” – Severina Santos (Summit School)

“Progressive education is a methodology that veers away from rote learning, such as memorization and rigid activities, usually practiced in traditional schools. Contrary to traditional methods, progressive education aims to stimulate the mind and allow for more creative learning by engaging in collaborative work, creating multi-media projects in collaboration with different subjects, using a broader curriculum that allows the child to widen his perspectives, having a more informal atmosphere in the classroom between the teachers and students to encourage more open sharing of thoughts and ideas, and allowing the students to learn and use real-life skills in their daily classroom activities.” – Cherie Co (The Sycamore)


What makes a progressive school different from other schools?

“In a progressive school, learners are active participants in the learning process. They engage in hands-on activities to learn. … Children engage in a lot of collaborative activities with peers as well. Children are taught to think, and paper and pencil assessment is not the only way to measure whether a child learns. Through this process, children gain ownership of the learning, which results in developing a stronger understanding of a topic.” – Monica L. Javier (Keys School Manila)

“The progressive style of education emphasizes experiential learning (also known as ‘hands-on’ or ‘learning by doing’). Subject areas like math, science, and language are all integrated into what is known as thematic learning. For example, when learning about dinosaurs, counting (math), letter recognition (language), and learning about the way dinosaurs lived (science) can be incorporated in this broad topic. Students are also very involved in the development of their learning through collaboration, and by engaging in group-oriented tasks. There is emphasis on actual hands-on experiences and the process by which student learn, as opposed to learning by rote or relying on textbooks for learning and comprehending subject matters. Children in this kind of learning setting are heavily involved in the learning process, thereby allowing them to have a sense of ownership over their own learning.” Kristel Urbanski (Glebe House Manila)

“Progressive education makes learning as close to real-life events as possible. For instance, instead of rote learning about how to compute for percentages, products, averages, etc., a progressive approach could include activities like monitoring the stock market, and having pretend investments that the students have to monitor and analyze, or holding a bake sale and identifying cost, percentage, mark-up, and earnings, and even multiplying recipes to their desired amounts. – Cherie Co (The Sycamore)


What role do the teachers play?

“Teachers act as facilitators, helping children inquire, discover, and learn. … In our setting, teachers act as a facilitator and guide to help foster thinking, and encourage children to question the world around them.” – Monica L. Javier (Keys School Manila)

“Teachers are the facilitators of learning. They encourage meaningful dialogue and analysis, and nurture natural curiosity, empathy, and creative intelligence. Teachers are also constantly learning with their students.” Cherie Co (The Sycamore)

“Teachers in a Reggio Emilia setting are there to guide and further enrich children’s learning by preparing activities that are sensorially stimulating, open-ended and can be tapped for inquiry-based learning. Teachers encourage a sense of flow into the daily routines of a class by preparing learning areas and activities, making sure materials are adequate, accessible, and sufficient in encouraging exploration. Teachers act as springboards of information, where a child’s question can lead to many other little questions waiting to be answered and discovered together.” Kristel Urbanski (Glebe House Manila)

“The teachers play a very important role in a Developmental-Interaction Approach classroom. Teachers must know each and every one of their children at a thoughtful and deep level. Teachers must also be able to give the children the space and freedom to experience the joys of discovery and experimentation while keeping the class moving in a cohesive manner.” – Severina Santos (Summit School)


So now that we know the main characteristics of progressive schools, on to the more important questions: Who are progressive schools for? Are there certain characteristics that my child has that make him or her better suited for a progressive school?


Who are progressive schools for?

“Generally, everyone will thrive and succeed in a progressive school. We should acknowledge that different kids have different learning styles. Some kids may thrive in a traditional setting, some kids may thrive in a progressive setting. It is important to find out what approach will be the right fit for your child.” – Monica L. Javier (Keys School Manila)

“Our school has had students from varied backgrounds, nationalities, and developmental stages, but the commonality is that the parents of our children are our partners in the education of their children. Our parents volunteer to participate in their children’s classrooms, attend their children’s activities, and work with us to keep our programs relevant to their children’s lives.” – Severina Santos (Summit School)

“Other than considerations like proximity, cost, co-educational or single sex, religious or non-religious, parents are also faced with questions regarding the educational approach that would best suit their children. To start off, understand your child’s strengths and interests. What does your child respond positively to? What is your child’s learning style? As for personality types, children who are typically tactile learners, those who like to construct, build, manipulate, and engage in activities that engage their senses, will usually thrive in progressive schools. Children change as they grow, so it is very important to continuously observe and understand the emerging interests and developing personality of your child.” – Kristel Urbanski (Glebe House Manila)


At the end of the day, your choice of school should boil down to what you think is best for your child. No one knows your child better than you, so we trust that you’ll make the perfect choice!


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    1. Hi Mechelle,

      You can get in contact with some of the progressive schools mentioned above, and ask for their addresses. We’ve linked their websites or Facebook pages above to make it easier for you too. Hope this helps! 🙂

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