Principles of the Dalton Plan:
There are five basic principles on which this entire Plan is based. Let us discuss them one by one, a bit in detail.
(1) Child is the centre of this plan of education- In the olden days, it was the teacher who occupied the central place in the scheme of education. No place was given to the individual differences and stages of the psychological development of the child in the field of education. Miss Parkhurst replaced this situation by giving the central place to the child in her scheme of education. She has herself said, “He is in the school to be taught and spooned to do things for himself”. This was the situation that Miss Parkhurst saw and wanted to change. She revolted against this in her Plan in which emphasis is laid on individual education. In this Plan, children are not taught together without any consideration of their individual differences. Here, a good deal of emphasis was laid on the individual differences of the children. This plan is based on the various stages of the psychological development of the child. This plan provides an opportunity for the child to enrich his personality in his own way. “He proceeds at his own natural road. His progress is real and it is the result of his own efforts and learning”.
(2) Provision for Self-education- The classroom education moves according to a set pattern. The child is not free to read the subject of his liking. The school bells tear him (the child) away at an appointed hour and chain him pedagogically to another subject and another teacher”. According to Dalton Plan, such a thing goes against the principle of interest and freedom. Dalton Plan provides for the opportunity for the child to educate himself independently. In this scheme, the educand does not depend on instructions and guidance from the teacher. The child goes on to educate himself according to his own interest. The teacher, on the other hand, gives out the work to the child according to his natural faculties, interest and incapabilities. There are laboratories in which books and other things are available. The child makes use of all these things according to his interest and undergoes the process of ‘self-education’. In this scheme when the child undergoes a ‘contract’ to educate himself, he also takes a vow not to seek help from others. This feeling gives him freedom, but nobody checks him from taking help from his teachers and class-fellows.
(3) The Principle of Complete Freedom- In this Plan the students are completely free to acquire education according to their ability and speed. They are free to work with speed, that it is possible for them. There is no bondage of time-table. In the words of Miss Bella Reenie, “It aims at giving to the older child that freedom for self-development which has proved so valuable in the school lite of the infant while at the same time, ensuring that he shall master thoroughly the academic work required by the curriculum of the school”.
In this scheme, when a mentally backward child finishes his work, he gets his further assignment. On the other hand, the brilliant child has the opportunity to go ahead early. This is the greatest quality of this scheme of education which is well-founded on psychological principles.
(4) The teacher acts as a guide- Under this Plan, the ‘school is laboratory’ where the teachers of various subjects are present while the child undergoes the process of education. But they do not interfere with the working of educands. The teacher here acts only as a guide. He gives the contract of the work to the child and issues necessary instructions. He tells him how to work and what material and books to take help from. He brings him to the correct path and leaves him to go ahead.
If he faces any difficulty, while working, he has the freedom to ask for assistance and help from the teacher. As far as possible, the teacher does not interfere with the work of the child.
(5) Collective Education- Although Dalton Plan was drawn up in opposition to “collective education” yet it does not completely give up the method of working or studying collectively. It is believed here also that “work in co-operation” is a part of education and Miss Parkhurst provided for collective education in her scheme of education. Under this scheme, all the children, after reading school, must meet together, at least once. Normally, before the children go to their classes they have to collect at one place. Here they are free to discuss with each other and take help from their fellowmen. An attempt is made to solve the difficulties collectively. This gives an opportunity to the children to work in co-operation and learn to qualities of cooperation and sociality.