Our Founding Principles
According to Piaget, education is an active process, which stems from a child’s natural desire to feel, explore, move around and understand things. Piaget believed that it was essential to guide children through this voyage while allowing them the liberty to explore things on their own and live their own experiences through a personal process of trial and error. The role of the educator is simply to support children in their progression through their different stages of development while constantly encouraging their creativity and imagination.
The principal goal of education is to create men and woman who are capable of doing new things. – Jean Piaget
In his research on the education of children, Piaget defined four stages of cognitive development in children that correspond to levels of intellectual development. This development process cannot be accelerated and the sequence of progression from one stage to the next is identical in all children; stages cannot be missed.
The sensorimotor stage
Infants discover the world through their senses and movements. They can only see the world from their own point of view; they are egocentric. At the beginning of this stage, they act automatically without any understanding or intent; later on, they coordinate their senses and gradually become capable of anticipating events and imaging an object that is not present. Toward the end of this stage, they begin testing the use of objects, making goals on how to use them and thinking about a problem before acting.
The preoperational stage
Self-awareness develops in this stage. Children begin to use inner images, symbols and language. Their primary interest is the form and appearance of objects. They are able to classify objects logically (e.g. by size) and compare two objects, but can only concentrate on one attribute at a time (e.g. size or colour). Children remain egocentric because they are not yet capable of seeing the world from another’s perspective.
Concrete operational stage
Children develop the ability to perform logical operations, but only using concrete, real objects. They understand that the same object can take different forms and have many attributes: it can be big and green, for example. At this stage, children become less and less egocentric.
Formal operational stage
Children begin to contemplate ideas and reason based on verbal statements only. They no longer need to refer to concrete objects and can follow a line of reasoning. They begin to demonstrate reasoning, and their expanding capacity for imagination enables them to be aware of another’s perspective.
These four stages of cognitive development in children correspond to levels of intellectual development. One stage must be completed before a child can move onto the next.
The Rudolf Steiner school of thought, born 80 years ago, emphasizes a child’s development over performance: the development of emotional, affective and intellectual intelligence, and social, motor and creative abilities.
The ambition and competitiveness we experience in our adult lives has unfortunately found its way into our daycares. We set high expectations for our children without realizing that every child is unique and has his or her own set of capabilities and skills. The Finnish education system perfectly understands how the ambition we harbour for our children can be detrimental to them in the long term. For a number of years now, Finland has been remodelling its education system and, as a result, has reformulated the educational principles on which its kindergartens are based.
Although we cannot adopt this exact system here, we can learn a lot from it. Putting the child back at the centre of the education system:
Respecting the stages of a child’s cognitive development and helping him develop his affective, emotional, creative and intellectual intelligence will enable him to achieve inner balance and be well prepared for the future. Favouring intellect over all other forms of intelligence is like building a house without a foundation. It takes only one chipped pillar to compromise the balance and stability of the house; and if one pillar is missing, the house will never live up to its full potential.