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Back to Basics

Back to basics is an unofficial term used to describe traditional education or conventional education. Also sometimes known as customary education, it refers to long-established customs that society has been traditionally using in schools. Some types of education reform promote the adoption of progressive education practices, bringing about a more holistic approach to it which focuses on each individual student’s needs, mental health, social-emotional learning, and academics. According to reformers, traditional teacher-centric methods of education focus on rote learning and memorization which must be abandoned in favor of student-centric and task-based approaches to learning.

The primary purpose of traditional education is to keep passing on those skills, facts, and standards of social and moral conduct adults consider to be necessary for the material advancement of the next generation. Teachers are the instruments by means by which this knowledge is communicated and the standards of behavior are enforced. Back to basics has much stronger elements of coercion than is acceptable in most cultures. It has sometimes even included:

  • The use of corporal punishment to maintain classroom discipline
  • Inculcating the dominant language and religion 
  • Separating students according to race, social class, or gender
  • Teaching different subjects to girls and boys

With respect to the curriculum there was, and still is, a great level of attention paid to time-honored academic knowledge. On the basis of the context, the opposite of traditional education would be progressive education, modern education, which are education approaches based on developmental psychology, or alternative education. 

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