Traditional vs. Progressive Schools

There are several questions that may arise in the minds of parents when they hear that Eastbridge is a non-traditional or a progressive school. Some think that it will become difficult for their children to enter a traditional school later on once they start their kid at Eastbridge. Or, that maybe a non-traditional school has less subjects than traditional ones since it seems that non-traditional schools tend to have more playtime and more toys and manipulatives. Still some think that non-traditional schools are using new and therefore untested methods that may later prove to be non-beneficial to the students when they go into elementary, high school or college.

This article is a primer for parents who want to know more about the differences between the two types of schools and which one is best for their children.

First of all, there are quite a lot of non-traditional schools in the country. It is not something new either. Real Montessori schools for example have been in existence since the early 20th century and many Montessori schools worldwide celebrated the Montessori Education Centennial in 2007. Other examples of non-traditional schools are Piaget schools, Waldorf or Steiner Education schools, Multiple Intelligences schools (to which Eastbridge belongs), etc.

Since the above non-traditional schools have their share of both strengths and weaknesses, parents are advised to research and know more about such schools and theories upon which their methods and curriculms are based. Decisions as to which school is "best" will depend on what parents deem important in the development of their child. Even a traditional school has its own strength to boast and indeed many of our parents, including this writer, were educated the traditional way. So what really is the difference between a traditional and a non-traditional school? In a nutshell, they differ in these:

 Traditional School Non-traditional School 
  •  Teacher-centered
  • Child-centered 
  • Bigger class size
  • Smaller class size
  • Isolated curriculum
(subjects are taught separately)
  • Integrated curriculum
(students learn many subjects in one lesson)
  • Product-oriented
  • Process-oriented
  • Learning of skills by repetition
  • Learning by various activities
  • Concepts are presented as facts to memorize
  • Concepts are presented as questions to be investigated
  • Basic learning
  • In-depth learning
  • Quantitative evaluation (numerical testing)
  • Authentic Assessment

Looking at the above list, it's not so difficult to see that there are many advantages to enrolling your kids in a non-traditional or progressive  school. To highlight some of these advantages: 

  • Traditional schools being teacher-oriented depend much on teacher-fed learning. Teachers employ mostly lectures and students mostly listen. This method of teaching is deemed ineffective because it had been discovered that kids learn in different ways and at different times. Thus, the child-centered method of progressive schools is designed just for this individual learning styles and instructions.
  • Because of the previous point, it becomes consequential that traditional schools have bigger class sizes where everyone learns one way and at the same time; while progressive schools have to have a smaller sized class to extend individual instruction.
  • Since learning is by repetition in the traditional way, learning easily becomes a chore and is very tedious to students. The level of recall is also low. One educator says its only 10%. In contrast, varied activities which include discovery, student-led activity, group learning, guided play, etc. used in progressive schools tend to deepen the impression of the learned activity in the mind of the child, thus increasing recall estimated to be up to 80%, not to mention also the fun and variety to the learning process.

This is not to say, however that progressive schools have no disadvantage at all compared to traditional ones. Firstly, traditional schools tend to have more facilities. After all, many of these school types have been in existence far longer that progressive ones. Secondly, they tend to have lower fees so parents have more choices. Thirdly, progressive schools may suffer from ineffectivity if the teachers are not well-trained in the new methods.

Since Eastbnridge is a progressive or non-traditional school, what is its advantage over other traditional schools or even schools of its kind? Secondly, can the students of Eastbridge easily hurdle the competency requirements of high-standard traditional schools? To answer these questions, it is important to know the background of the educators that run, manage and own the school. The directress is a product of traditional and progressive training. She also belongs to a very dynamic institution, for some time as a full-time but now as a part-time teacher.  The curriculum that she developed for Eastbridge is a hybrid, eclectic, a combination of the best of both worlds. But since the basis of the methodologies is MI or Multiple Intelligences , the school considers itself progressive. Our students are not strangers to paper-and-pencil tests nor to lectures of traditional schools, unlike students from purely progressive schools are. We simply make sure that our methods and activities, even in a traditional setting are progressive, exciting and MI-based.

Can Eastbridge students comply with the competency required by other traditional schools? The answer is "Most certainly". we have students who, just for the sake of testing, were brought by their parents to other traditional schools to take their entrance exams and they pass those exams easily. In fact, one of our students who have been with us to two years got a very high score in the entrance exam of a Jesuit-run private school for boys that he was offered a scholarship. In contrast, many students from traditional schools who attempt to transfer to Eastbridge cannot pass the entrance exams given to them as the subjects are too advanced for some of them.

In summary, a progressive school is a good choice if a parent wants her/his child to love learning and going to school. That is already a strong argument by itself. In the case of Eastbridge, the MI-based curriculum also helps discover the kids' talents and potentials. A good case in point is a child that had nothing but traumatic experience in his previous traditional school because the teachers could not handle his weaknesses well enough. He was practically written off as hopeless, often subjected to punishments. After transferring to Eastbridge last year and in an MI setting, he was discovered to have great creative/manipulative and acting/performing skills. He garnered two gold medals in two competitions where he joined.

On the other hand, a traditional one is easy on the pocket and may offer more activities like sports that need bigger spaces and facilities. How does a school like Eastbridge respond to this shortcoming? We rent venues if necessary and we had for example for our Musical Program, Cheer Dance Competition, Academic Contest, even for our Thanksgiving.  Coming up with a worthwhile program can sometimes be more difficult than finding a venue to hold it.

Some children may also respond very well to traditional methods of teaching, even in big class sizes. But then again, there is always that issue of how an institution can provide quality at a low cost. In our experience, it is simply impossible. There is a simple reason why Ateneo or Xavier teachers, etc. are paid more. They are simply better educated and trained teachers. An institution that cannot afford to pay for quality instructors, cannot afford to deliver quality education.