Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. The term holistic education is often used to refer to the more democratic and humanistic types of alternative education. Robin Ann Martin (2003) describes this further by stating, “At its most general level, what distinguishes holistic education from other forms of education are its goals, its attention to experiential learning, and the significance that it places on relationships and primary human values within the learning environment.”
The concept of holism refers to the idea that all the properties of a given system in any field of study cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its component parts. Instead, the system as a whole determines how its parts behave. A holistic way of thinking tries to encompass and integrate multiple layers of meaning and experience rather than defining human possibilities narrowly. The purpose of holistic education is to prepare students to meet the challenges of living as well as academics. Holistic education believes it is important for young people to learn:
- About themselves.
- About healthy relationships and pro-social behavior.
- Social development.
- Emotional development.
- To see beauty, have awe, experience transcendence, and appreciate some sense of “truths.”
The holistic education exemplifies the following characteristics
- Holistic education nurtures the broad development of the students and focuses on their intellectual, emotional, social, physical, creative or intuitive, aesthetic and spiritual potentials.
- It promotes the importance of relationships at all levels within a learning community in which the educator and student work together in an open and collaborative relationship.
- There is an emphasis on life experience and learning beyond the confines of the classroom and the formal educational environment towards education as growth, discovery and a broadening of horizons. It encourages a desire to elicit meaning and understanding and to engage with the world.
- The approach empowers learners to examine critically the cultural, moral and political contexts of their lives. It leads learners towards actively challenging and changing cultural values to meet human needs.
Holistic education has the capacity to lead the students into new areas of thinking, to broaden their personal and critical thinking and develop an appreciation of the world around them, and to realize the importance that relationships have within all these considerations. Importantly, holistic education has the capacity to empower students to think differently, to think creatively and reflect on their own values.