Different education philosophies

Struggling to pick a nursery school for your child? Educational Psychologist Marinda Botha suggests looking at the school’s educational philosophy and how it might fit with your child’s personality.  Here are the Montessori, Waldord, Reggio Emilia and Traditional approaches in a nutshell. 
The Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia and Traditional approaches are the most common learning approaches in South Africa. Schools might also use a combination of two or more approaches. There is also the Home Schooling option that you might want to read more about.
Here’s a summary of what each approach entails:
MontessoriWaldorfReggio EmiliaTraditional
  • Class with mixed age groups.
  • Follows child’s natural order of development, for example, from sensory/concrete to abstract.
  • Focus on individual learning where every child works at their own pace.
  • Teachers are guides.
  • Activities are hands-on and repetitive.
  • Play materials are carefully chosen to facilitate the development of the required skills. Children have a free choice between the activities.
  • Fosters personal responsibility for activities such as cleaning up and independence.
  • Self-discipline and self-correction skills are developed.
  • Children help each other and learn from each other.
  • Focused on reality and nature, not fantasy.
  • Can support and accommodate children with special needs. 
  • No punishment or rewards. Believe in internal motivation.
  • Underlying principle of dependable routine.
  • Set schedule for the week.
  • Long term placement with one teacher.
  • Home-like atmosphere.
  • Group-oriented curriculum.
  • Learning is creative and playful (play-acting, story readings, singing, cooking).
  • Goal is to develop the child intellectually, physically and emotionally.
  • A child who needs a predictable routine enjoys this environment.
  • Children take the lead in learning.
  • Learning is planned around themes of interest to the children.
  • Children learn through their mistakes, while teachers merely guide the process.
  • Assignments and work are documented in a visual way, through photos for example. This way the children can also track their progress.
  • Emphasize creativity and artistic representation.
  • Underlying principles of Montessori and Waldorf.
  • Teacher is seen as instructor with direct instructions and lectures.
  • Children need to observe and listen carefully to instructions and lessons.
  • Work towards outcomes.
  • Focus on memorising and testing.
  • Classes grouped according to ages.
  • Specific subject areas.
  • Single unified curriculum for all students. 
  • The National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) is a combination of Traditional, Common Core and OBE principles, which public schools follow. Some pre-primary schools follow the same curriculum as the public schools they feed into.


Public primary and high schools moved from the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). Here is a comparison of the two approaches
 What educational approach are you leaning towards?