Traditional Education

Traditional education, also known as back-to-basics, conventional education or customary education, refers to long-established customs found in schools that society has traditionally deemed appropriate. Some forms of education reform promote the adoption of progressive education practices, a more holistic approach which focuses on individual students’ needs and self-expression. In the eyes of reformers, traditional teacher-centered methods focused on rote learning and memorization must be abandoned in favor of student-centered and task-based approaches to learning.


The definition of traditional education varies greatly with geography and by historical period.

The chief business of traditional education is to transmit to a next generation those skills, facts, and standards of moral and social conduct that adults consider to be necessary for the next generation’s material and social success. As beneficiaries of this scheme, which educational progressivist John Dewey described as being “imposed from above and from outside”, the students are expected to docilely and obediently receive and believe these fixed answers. Teachers are the instruments by which this knowledge is communicated and these standards of behavior are enforced. Historically, the primary educational technique of traditional education was simple oral recitation: In a typical approach, students sat quietly at their places and listened to one student after another recite his or her lesson, until each had been called upon. The teacher’s primary activity was assigning and listening to these recitations; students studied and memorized the assignments at home. A test or oral examination might be given at the end of a unit, and the process, which was called “assignment-study-recitation-test”, was repeated. In addition to its overemphasis on verbal answers, reliance on rote memorization (memorization with no effort at understanding the meaning), and disconnected, unrelated assignments, it was also an extremely inefficient use of students’ and teachers’ time. This traditional approach also insisted that all students be taught the same materials at the same point; students that did not learn quickly enough failed, rather than being allowed to succeed at their natural speeds. This approach, which had been imported from Europe, dominated American education until the end of the 19th century, when the education reform movement imported progressive education techniques from Europe.

Traditional education is associated with much stronger elements of coercion than seems acceptable now in most cultures. It has sometimes included: the use of corporal punishment to maintain classroom discipline or punish errors; inculcating the dominant religion and language; separating students according to gender, race, and social class , as well as teaching different subjects to girls and boys. In terms of curriculum there was and still is a high level of attention paid to time-honoured academic knowledge.

In the present it varies enormously from culture to culture, but still tends to be characterised by a much higher level of coercion than alternative education. Traditional schooling in Britain and its possessions and former colonies tends to follow the English Public School style of strictly enforced uniforms and a militaristic style of discipline. This can be contrasted with South African, USA and Australian schools, which can have a much higher tolerance for spontaneous student-to-teacher communication.

Traditional Teaching Skills

These first 6 teaching skills (in red in the image) are not new, but their importance has increased significantly for the modern teacher.

 1 Commitment: It is essential that teachers are committed to their work and to the education of young people. The responsibility that lies in the hands of a teacher is huge, so a modern teacher must always be aware of this and be truly engaged in their profession.

 2 Preparation:  There used be a time when the right temperament enabled you to become a teacher. Nowadays it’s nigh on impossible to find a teacher without formal academic training. This requirement is increasing as education levels improve in society. The better prepared you are as a teacher, the more effective you’ll be, so you should pursue you studies with this ethos in mind.

 3 Organization: Good organization and the planning of a course in advance are key factors for success. It is very important that a teacher organizes the lesson properly and allocates the time to cover it in its entirety. Students can tell a poorly planned class from a mile away and once they realise the teacher isn’t putting in the effort neither will they!

 4 Tolerance: In an increasingly diverse and multicultural society, it is necessary for teachers to manage any prejudices they may have and to treat all their students equally without showing favouritism. It’s a very important teaching skill not to impose your world view on your students, instead you should openly discuss topics and let students decide for themselves.

5 Story Telling: One of the best ways to teach and transfer ideas is through stories. The best teachers have used this method in their classes for centuries. Teaching a lesson by incorporating story-telling techniques is a fantastic teaching skill to develop at anytime. Utilizing it leaves your class wanting to find out what happens next. An engaged class is the best way to increase participation and collaboration.

6 Open to Questions: Having discussions and collaborating in class are essential for encouraging students and implementing new teaching techniques. Teachers must be open to answering their students questions. Modern teachers truly listen to their students questions and answer them honestly, not just with a cursory or textbook response. It may sometimes occur that you don’t know the answer to a question or you don’t have the time! If this happens, don’t waffle or brush the question off, just explain that you will look in to it and get back to the student with a proper answer later.

New Teaching Skills

These new teaching skills complement the more traditional ones. These skills are associated with new technologies. Incorporating these into your teaching repertoire will ensure you become a modern teacher.

7 Innovative: The modern teacher must be willing to innovate and try new things, both teaching skills and educational apps, ICT tools and electronic devices. The modern teacher must be an “early adopter”.

8 Tech Enthusiast: The modern teacher must not only be innovative but also be willing to explore new technologies. Whether it is iPads, apps or personal learning environments, modern teachers should  be in constant search of new ICT solutions to implement in their classrooms.

 9 Social : One of the traditional teaching skills was to be open to questions. The modern teacher should lead the conversation to social networks to explore possibilities outside of the class itself. We recommend our “Twitter in the Classroom: Ideas for teachers” to explore this idea in more depth.

 10 Geek: We mean this in the best sense of the word. The internet is the greatest source of knowledge that humanity has ever known, so to be a modern teacher you must be a curious person and incorporate this resource at every available option. Trust me, your students are going to do it if you don’t! You need to be someone who is always researching and looking for new information to challenge your students and engage them in a dialogue both in class and online.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s