How Can We Define Holistic Education?

by Dave Till

Over the next few months we will be posting a series of articles to explore the various aspects of Holistic Education, in preparation for the Holistic Centres Gathering at the Findhorn Foundation, in May 2012.

Holistic education involves the whole self and therefore includes the following parts of the person;

Spiritual and
Relationships between people and groups

Conventional education mainly happens in the mental arena – passing exams, gaining qualifications and degrees; things that demonstrate intellect or intellectual knowledge. The mind leads the process and is at the top of the hierarchy of learning.

In holistic learning, the emphasis shifts to the importance of each part of the person and their interconnectedness. If there is a hierarchy in holistic learning, the process should be led by the higher self or the spiritual self.

A good analogy is the one used by the Hoffman Process; the whole person can be likened to a carriage and driver pulled by a horse. The owner is inside the carriage, the driver is high at the front with the reins of the horse in his hands. The owner represents the higher self (spirit); the carriage (body); the driver (mind) and the horse (emotions).

The direction should be set by the owner, the spirit and not by the driver, the mind. Each part then has a clear function in making the carriage move to its destination. And almost every man-made trouble in the world can be traced to giving the driver a free rein! Time for a change of emphasis I think.

Here lies the shift necessary to make holistic education work. We can’t easily add on holistic techniques to traditional education because the whole emphasis needs to shift. For a holistic model to work, education has to be rethought from the base up. To use the Hoffman horse and carriage analogy again, we can’t try to pretend that the driver should still be planning the journey, especially if we have been in communication with the owner for some time already.

At a holistic centre like the Findhorn Foundation, we don’t fit into existing degree courses or school programmes because that way we have a chance to fully explore the holistic ways of doing things. In my opinion it’s important to hold on to these differences, and not dilute them by trying to pretend that holistic education is a sort of interesting new branch of conventional education. It is not a branch of anything, it is a tree in itself.


Please note, these are in no particular order of importance, nor is this list meant to be comprehensive. It is a work in progress and we hope this will stimulate interesting discussion.

Please feel free to comment, challenge, question or develop this exploration as each article is posted week by week. Each topic will have the link added once the article has been posted.

1. The Learning Community

2. Group Dynamics, Group Roles and Role Play in a Group

3. Conflict Resolution

4. Emotional Awareness

5. Learning Contracts and Learning Sets

6. Good Feedback Loops

7. Changing modes – Physical Activity and Playing Games

8. Sharings and Introductions

9. Meditation and Attunement

10. Spiritual Practice

11. The Value of Service

12. Models of Group Development

13. Mental Learning

14. Supervision

15. Assessments

16. Meta Skills in a group

17. Co-creation with Nature

18. Bodywork Styles

19. Intuition, Altered States and Dream Work

To view the working document or share information please email