Alternative school

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An alternative school is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional. [1] [2] Such schools offer a wide range of philosophies and teaching methods; some have strong political, scholarly, or philosophical orientations, while others are more ad hoc assemblies of teachers and students dissatisfied with some aspect of mainstream or traditional education.


Some schools are based on pedagogical approaches differing from that of the mainstream pedagogy employed in a culture, while other schools are for gifted students, children with special needs, children who have fallen off the track educationally or expelled from their base school, children who wish to explore unstructured or less rigid system of learning, etc.


There are many models of alternative schools but the features of promising alternative programs seem to converge more or less on the following characteristics:

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, 'alternative school' refers to a school that provides a learner centered informal education as an alternative to the regimen of traditional education in the United Kingdom. [5] There's a long tradition of such schools in the United Kingdom, going back to Summerhill, whose founder, A. S. Neill, greatly influenced the spread of similar democratic type schools such as the famous Dartington Hall School, and Kilquhanity School, [6] both now closed. Currently there are one democratic primary school Small Acres, and two democratic secondary schools, Summerhill and Sands School. [7] There are also a range of schools based on the ideas of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner. [8]

United States

In the United States, there has been tremendous growth in the number of alternative schools in operation since the 1970s, when relatively few existed. [9] [10] Some alternative schools are for students of all academic levels and abilities who are better served by a non-traditional program. Others are specifically intended for students with special educational needs, address social problems that affect students, such as teenage parenthood or homelessness, or accommodate students who are considered at risk of failing academically.


In Canada, local school boards choose whether or not they wish to have alternative schools and how they are operated. The alternative schools may include multi-age groupings, integrated curriculum or holistic learning, parental involvement, and descriptive reports rather than grades. Some school systems provide alternative education streams within the state schools. [11]

In Canada, schools for children who are having difficulty in a traditional secondary school setting are known as alternate schools. [12]


Germany has over 200 Waldorf schools, including the first such school in the world (founded 1919), and a large number of Montessori schools. Each of these has its own national association, whereas most other alternative schools are organized in the National Association of Independent Alternative Schools (). Funding for private schools in Germany differs from Bundesland to Bundesland.

Full public funding is given to laboratory schools researching school concepts for public education. The Laborschule Bielefeld had a great influence on many alternative schools, including the renewal of the democratic school concept.

South Korea

In South Korea, alternative schools serve three big groups of youth in South Korea. The first group is students who could not succeed in formative Korean education. Many of these schools serve students who dropped out during their earlier school years, either voluntarily or by disciplinary action. The second group is young immigrants. As the population of immigrants from Southeast Asia and North Korea is increasing, several educators started to see the necessity of the adaptive education, specially designed for these young immigrants. Because South Korea has been a monoethnic society throughout its history, there is not enough system and awareness to protect these students from bullying, social isolation, or academic failure. For instance, the drop-out rate for North Korean immigrant students is ten times higher than that of students from South Korean students because their major challenge is initially to adapt to South Korean society, not to get a higher test score. The other group is students who choose an alternative education because of its philosophy. Korean education, as in many other Asian countries, is based on testing and memorizing. Some students and parents believe this kind of education cannot nurture a student thoroughly and choose to go to an alternative school, that suggests a different way to learn for students. These schools usually stress the importance of interaction between other people and nature over written test results.

The major struggle in alternative schools in South Korea are recognition, lack of financial support, and quality gap between alternative schools. Although South Korean public's recognition to alternative education has deliberately changed, the progressive education still is not widely accepted. To enter a college, regular education is often preferred because of the nation's rigid educational taste on test result and record. For the same reason, South Korean government is not actively supporting alternative schools financially.

Hence, many alternative schools are at risk of bankruptcy, especially the schools that do not or cannot collect tuition from their students. Most Southeast Asian and North Korean immigrant families are financially in need, so they need assist from government's welfare system for their everyday life. It is clear that affording private education is a mere fantasy for these families. That phenomenon, at last, causes a gap among alternative schools themselves. Some schools are richly supported by upper-class parents and provide variety of in-school and after-school programs, and others rarely have resource to build few academic and extracurricular programs as such.


India has a long history of alternative schools. Vedic and Gurukul systems of education during 1500 BC to 500 BC emphasized on acquisition of occupational skills, cultural and spiritual enlightenment in an atmosphere which encouraged rational thinking, reasoning among the students. Hence the aim of education was to develop the pupil in various aspects of life as well as ensure social service. [13] However, with the decline of the local economies and the advent of the colonial rulers this system went into decline. Some notable reforms like English as the medium of instruction, were introduced as recommended in Macaulay's Minute in the year 1835. The mainstream schools of today still follow the system developed in the colonial era. In the years since independence, Government has focused on expansion of school network, designing of curriculum according to educational needs, local language as the medium of instruction, etc. By the end of nineteenth century, many social reformers began to explore alternatives to contemporary education system. Vivekananda, Dayanand Saraswati, Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Syed Ahmed Khan were the pioneers who took up the cause of social regeneration, removal of social inequalities, promotion of girl's education through alternate schools. [14] In the early twentieth century educationists create models of alternative schools as a response to the drawbacks to mainstream schools which are still viable. Rabindranath Tagore's Shanti Niketan, Jiddu Krishnamurthy's Rishi Valley School, Sri Aurobindo and Mother's Sri Aurobindo International Center for Education popularly known as Ashram Schools, and Walden's Path Magnet School are some of the examples. An upsurge in alternative schools was seen in 1970's onward. But most of the alternate schools are the result of individual efforts rather than government. The establishment of National Institute Open Schooling (NIOS) in 1989 by Ministry of Human Resource Development was one of the steps taken by the government which took all such schools under its wings. NIOS provide platform for the alternate school children to take government prescribed examination.

Alternative Education Programs

Alternative education programs are ideal for people who think college education is not a requirement for becoming successful entrepreneurs. These programs educate neophyte and experienced entrepreneurs while providing them with the necessary resources. An article published at last February 11, 2018 mentioned that many educational institutions contribute to their respective accelerator courses. [15] The University of Missouri System initiated the Ameren Accelerator which concentrates on energy startups and assists entrepreneurs in obtaining essential know-how about the industry from educator-partners at the university level. [16] There are international programs that also offer related resources like Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana, Africa. It has an incubator program providing seed capital, training, and learning opportunities in a rigorous one-year program from outstanding students in the African region. [17]

The Huffington Post cited options in alternative learning like Home School, Micro Schooling, and Unschooling. [18] The concept of Unschooling means the student learns according to the way that person wants for specific reasons and choice. The individual gets help from teachers, parents, books, or formal classes but makes the final decision on how to proceed and according to his or her preferred schedule. [19] Micro-schools or independent free schools differ in approach, size, and authority. These are contemporary one-room schools, full-time or part-time facilities, or learning centers that are owned and managed by teachers or parents. [20] Some parents choose this non-traditional system over formal education because it teaches youngsters to look for practical solutions. The USA is attempting to serve an increasing number of a good number of at-risk students outside the conventional highs schools. There are Alternative Education Campuses that cater to dropouts or those who have been expelled from their schools. There are reportedly more than 4,000 AECs all over the country. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Education Learning in which knowledge and skills is transferred through teaching

Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion and directed research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators, however learners can also educate themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. The methodology of teaching is called pedagogy.

Education reform is the name given to the goal of changing public education. Historically, reforms have taken different forms because the motivations of reformers have differed. However, since 2020, education reform has been focused on changing the existing system from one focused on inputs to one focused on outputs. In the United States, education reform acknowledges and encourages public education as the primary source of K-12 education for American youth. Education reformers desire to make public education into a market, where accountability creates high-stakes from curriculum standards tied to standardized tests. As a result of this input-output system, equality has been conceptualized as an end point, which is often evidenced by an achievement gap among diverse populations. This conceptualization of education reform is based on the market-logic of competition. As a consequence, competition creates inequality which has continued to drive the market-logic of equality at an end point by reproduce the achievement gap among diverse youth. The one constant for all forms of education reform includes the idea that small changes in education will have large social returns in citizen health, wealth and well-being. For example, a stated motivation has been to reduce cost to students and society. From ancient times until the 1800s, one goal was to reduce the expense of a classical education. Ideally, classical education is undertaken with a highly educated full-time personal tutor. Historically, this was available only to the most wealthy. Encyclopedias, public libraries and grammar schools are examples of innovations intended to lower the cost of a classical education.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to education:

Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that began in the late nineteenth century; it has persisted in various forms to the present. The term progressive was engaged to distinguish this education from the traditional Euro-American curricula of the 19th century, which was rooted in classical preparation for the university and strongly differentiated by social class. By contrast, progressive education finds its roots in modern experience. Most progressive education programs have these qualities in common:

Homeschooling Education of children outside of school

Homeschooling or home schooling, also known as home education or elective home education (EHE), is the education of school-aged children at home or a variety of places other than school. Usually conducted by a parent, tutor, or an online teacher, many homeschool families use less formal, more personalized methods of learning that are not always found in schools. The actual practice of homeschooling can look very different. The spectrum ranges from highly structured forms based on traditional school lessons to more open, free forms such as unschooling, which is a lesson- and curriculum-free implementation of homeschooling. Some families who initially attended a school go through a deschool phase to break away from their school habits and prepare for homeschooling. While "homeschooling" is the term commonly used in North America, "home education" is primarily used in Europe and many Commonwealth countries.

The philosophy of education examines the goals, forms, methods, and meaning of education. The term is used to describe both fundamental philosophical analysis of these themes and the description or analysis of particular pedagogical approaches. Considerations of how the profession relates to broader philosophical or sociocultural contexts may be included. The philosophy of education thus overlaps with the field of education and applied philosophy.

Unschooling Educational method and philosophy; form of homeschooling

Unschooling is an informal learning that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Often considered a lesson- and curriculum-free implementation of homeschooling, unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, fixed times at which learning should take place, conventional grading methods in standardized tests, forced contact with children in their own age group, the compulsion to do homework, regardless of whether it helps you in your individual situation, the effectiveness of listening to and obeying the orders of one authority figure for several hours each day, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child.

John Holt (educator) American writer and educator

John Caldwell Holt was an American author and educator, a proponent of homeschooling and, specifically, the unschooling approach, and a pioneer in youth rights theory.

Tutoring Instructor who gives private lessons

Tutoring is academic support provided by a master teacher; someone with deep knowledge or defined expertise in a particular subject or set of subjects.

Montessori education Teaching method encouraging autodidacticism

The Montessori method of education was developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori. Emphasizing independence, it views children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a sufficiently supportive and well-prepared learning environment. It discourages some conventional measures of achievement, such as grades and tests. Montessori developed her theories in the early 1900s through scientific experimentation with her students; the method has since been used in many parts of the world, in public and private schools alike.

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Pedagogy Theory, and practice of education

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Deschooling is a term invented by Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich. Today, the word is mainly used by homeschoolers, especially unschoolers, to refer to the transition process that children and parents go through when they leave the school system in order to start homeschooling. It is a crucial process that is the basis for homeschooling to work, in which children should slowly break out of their school routine and mentality, develop the ability to learn via self-determination again, and find interests to decide what they want to learn in their first homeschool days. Depending on the type of person and time the child spent in the school system, this phase can last different lengths of time and may have different effects on the behavior of children. Especially in the first days of deschooling, it is often the case that children mainly want to recover from the school surroundings and therefore will generally sleep very long and refuse any kind of intentional learning and instead search for substitute satisfactions like watching TV or playing video games, very similar to the behavior during early school holidays. Moving on in this transition process, children may feel bored or cannot cope well with the missing daily structure, until they eventually find out how to make use of their time and freedom to find interests, which in the best case results in them voluntarily informing themselves about certain things they're interested in, whereupon homeschooling can start.

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board refers to both the institution responsible for the operation of all English public schools in the city of Ottawa, Ontario and its governing body. Like most school boards, the OCDSB is administered by a group of elected trustees and one director selected and appointed by the Board itself. Additionally, annually, two student trustees are selected per provincial regulation.

This is an index of education articles.

Anti-schooling activism or radical education reform describes multiple attempts and approaches to fundamentally change the school system or positions that are critical of school as a learning institution or compulsory schooling laws. People of this movement usually advocate alternatives to the traditional school system, education independent from school, the abscence of the concept of schooling as a whole, or at least the right that people can choose where and how they are educated.

The Beach School School in Canada

The Beach School was a democratic free school in Toronto based on the Sudbury principles of education. The model has two basic tenets: educational freedom and democratic governance. Small and independent, The Beach School was a community of self-motivated learners, aged 4–19, who determined their own curriculum, and each had an equal voice in school governance. Located at 42 Edgewood Ave near Kingston Road and Dundas Street East, the school opened in the fall of 2003 and closed in June 2008 owing to a shortage of students. The Beach School was incorporated as a co-operative and, at the time of closing, was one of two Sudbury schools in Canada; the only one in Ontario.

Student-directed teaching is a teaching technology that aims to give the student greater control, ownership, and accountability over his or her own education. Developed to counter institutionalized, mass, schooling, student-directed teaching allows students to make their own choices while they learn in order to make education much more meaningful, relevant, and effective.

The legality of homeschooling in India and a plethora of alternative education schools spread over different states has been debated by educators, lawmakers, and parents since the passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) which makes formal education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 to 14 and specifies minimum norms for schools. While the legality of homeschooling still remains a grey area, there have been petitions by parents and alternate schools in the past for granting relief. As per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which India is a signatory, quote: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."

The Albany Free School is the oldest independent, inner-city alternative school in the United States. Founded by Mary Leue in 1969 based on the English Summerhill School philosophy, the free school lets students learn at their own pace. It has no grades, tests, or firm schedule: students design their own daily plans for learning. The school is self-governed through a weekly, democratic all-school meeting run by students in Robert's Rules. Students and staff alike receive one equal vote apiece. Unlike Summerhill-style schools, the Albany Free School is a day school that serves predominantly working-class children. Nearly 80 percent of the school is eligible for reduced-price meals in the public schools. About 60 students between the ages of three and fourteen attend, and are staffed by six full-time teachers and a number of volunteers.


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