Rousseau's Education for Boyhood

Educational theories of Rousseau for boyhood
The five stages of Emile according to Rousseau are:
Infancy (0-2years)
Early childhood (2-6years)
Later childhood (6-12years)
Boyhood (12-15years)
Adolescence (15-21years)
Emile’s fourth stage of life which is boyhood is going to be discussed. It covers the years from the age of 12 to the age of 15. This is a period of transition between childhood and adolescence. (Khalid, 1999)
Characteristics found in Emile at this stage:





Intellectual appearance
On the verge of adult life




of Emile at this stage
On the basis of these characteristics, it is concluded that during this stage he is ready to receive knowledge. Therefore, it is the time for work, instruction and enquiry. It is the time for developing intellect. So far necessity has been the guide, now utility should determine the course. The lost ground during childhood must be recovered now, and education accordingly should be speeded up. By this time the child’s innate curiosity is much more developed. (Khalid, 1999; Taneja, 2002)
Aim of education:
The aim of education at this stage is to gain useful knowledge; that could satisfy his needs, wants and desires. Emile’s training and education is restricted to what is useful.
“What is the use of that? This is the sacred formula.”
In the previous stage losing time was virtue; it is not so now. The occupations rejected at the previous stage must now be reviewed on the basis of the principle of utility. It is comprised of practical science, geography and manual work. In this stage, Rousseau puts Emile in challenging situations and provides him with concrete problems. (Khalid, 1999)
The curriculum should be built around curiosity and useful activities which are the only real motives of learning; according to Rousseau. Emile is introduced to studies that reveal nature, astronomy, science and the arts and crafts. (Taneja, 2002)
Method of teaching:
The basic method of teaching that Rousseau advocates is the problem-solving or discovery method that greatly resembles the ‘Heuristic method’. It is formulated in this way.
“Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. You have not to teach him truths so much as to show him how to set about discovering them for him.” (Khalid, 1999)
By this method, the child himself finds answers to the questions that interest him. Thus, all learning should still come from his own observations and experience, not from that of his tutor or from books. (Taneja, 2002)
The only book Emile would be allowed to read in this period is ‘Robinson Crusoe’, which is a study of “life according to nature”. It is easy to see why Rousseau chooses this one. It is the story of a man living in a wholly natural environment, uncorrupted by society and using native intelligence and abilities in order to solve the practical problems that arise on his island. It is the perfect model of the sort of life that Rousseau sees as appropriate at this stage. He emphasizes the learning of manual and industrial arts. In this way Rousseau wanted to teach him industrial exchange, banking and transportation. Learning of trade would also teach the boy mental discipline; as said by Rousseau.
Emile is still not ready for formal subjects of the traditional school but he can begin to learn some elementary science but from his own experience. So there are two turning points for this purpose; one from the boy’s interest in the world around him(Geography); the other from his interest in the sun(Astronomy). Therefore, the method should be that of personal discovery. This is the theory of learning by doing. While teaching him geography, Rousseau does not want the child to be shown the globe and maps, but the earth, the sky, the setting and the rising of the sun.
Qualities found in Emile at the conclusion of this stage:
At the conclusion of this stage Emile is industrious, temperate, patient, firm and full of courage. He has little knowledge but what he has is really his own; he knows “nothing by halves”.
In fact, this period should prepare the way for the next period, which is going to be concerned with moral and social conduct and religion. The three successive spirals of human development are formed by the necessity, utility and morality. In the previous period the child studied what was necessary; in this period, he studies what is useful and in the next period, the emphasis would be on morality and virtue.


Khalid, T. (1998). Education: An introduction to educational philosophy and
history. Karachi: S.M. Printers.

Taneja, V.R. (2002). Educational thought and practice. (6th ed.). New Delhi: Sterling
Publishers Private Limited.


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