Robert Owen was born a Welsh in May 14, 1771 and died in November 17, 1858. Robert married Caroline Dale in 1799, Dale’s father owned the new Lanark Mills and on New Year’s Day, 1800, Robert became the manager of the mills. Robert introduced changes that improved the lives of the people working and living in the village. Some of the changes brought about by Robert included ‘The world’s first infant school’ (New Lanark Kids n.p.). This paper will discuss by comparing Robert Owen’s theories with the modern education. This will be done by discussing the importance of learning environment, purposeful play, inclusion and how independence help learners be achievers.
During Robert’s time in the early 1800s schools were limited and one had to pay for it dearly. Robert felt that education was vital and he built The Institute for the Formation of Character at New Lanark that held evening classes, social event and school lessons. Some of the lessons included bathing lessons for children while their mums worked. It is amazing that many of Robert’s ideas still remain and topical today. These include his ideas on infant education and the modern infant education as shown below.
Dale Owen’s Outline of the System of Education at New Lanark in 1824 described the New Lanark schools and its management. According to Owen, every child who was above 1 year was meant to attend the school. During the first few months of attending school, Robert new that the foundation for the infants needed to be strong if the structure was to be satisfactory, and so he watched the infants daily and superintended their daily stay. He had finesse in human relations and as a result acquired the children’s most sincere affections as well as winning over their parents who were enchanted with their kids improved conduct and progress (infed.org n.d.).
He believed in some of the doctrines that are still relevant today. For example, he believed that at no account ever should infants be beaten, abused, or threatened; but always speaking to them in a kind and pleasant manner (infed.org n.d.).
The school was also run on a principle we can term as ‘the play principle.’ In fact the nursery school occupied the playground that was in front of the institute during fine weather and during wet days, it occupied the three main rooms on the ground floor. He believed that no infant should be forced in any way unless when it was inclined to do so. Robert never believed in toys for children, he felt that the several infants when left together will always amuse each other instead of ‘useless childish toys’. If the infants become bored, then a teacher will find for them something that they will be interested in hearing or seeing (infed.org n.d.).
According to the modern infant education, scholars advocates for Early Childhood Care and Education, ECCE. Through UNESCO, the programs that need to be attended to include health, security, nutrition, and learning all which provides the student with a holistic development. In its mission, UNESCO spells out its ECCE strategy and policies that include early childhood care and education system that supports early childhood policy development with a broader context of social, gender development, and poverty reduction (Early Childhood n.d.). All of these ideas were first expressed by Robert in his vision for New Lanark School. Pramling (2011) agrees that earlier education for infants should not be all about books but more of play and social interaction.
There are no fundamental differences between Robert’s ideas of what infants should do while in school and what current education theorists suggest. Both insist on more play, less class work with a special emphasis on social life. They both believe that the foundation of these infants is what matters in their future and hence should be strong enough to support future endeavors.