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The Educational Legacy of V.A. Sukhomlinsky
by Alan Cockerill
Sukhomlinsky was “the most influential Soviet educationist during the 1960s and 1970s”. Joseph Zajda
It may truly be said of Sukhomlinsky that he became a legend in his own lifetime. The school of which he was principal was an educational mecca visited by thousands of Soviet teachers. He was a prolific writer and his publications ran into millions of copies. His personal correspondence was prodigious.
Sukhomlinsky’s work is close in spirit to that of progressive Western educators - he belongs to a European humanistic tradition in education inspired by such educators as Vittorino da Feltre, Comenius and Pestalozzi, and his work is relevant to teachers and parents in English-speaking countries.
“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
With these words from Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road’ Sukhomlinsky closes his account of how he educated young children in a Ukrainian village during the aftermath of the Second World War. Vasily Sukhomlinsky (1918 – 1970) was principal of the same rural school in Pavlysh, central Ukraine, for twenty-two years. His remarkable work attracted thousands of visitors, some of whom travelled from the length and breadth of the Soviet Union to see his school with their own eyes. One visiting principal commented: ‘I have spent only one day in this remarkable school … but I have learnt as much as I did in four years at teachers college.’ (M. Manukian)
“Educators should guard against over-concentration on formal teaching and the attainment of a specific set of targets”. the Rumbold Report ‘Starting with Quality’ 1990
In a paper which we are publishing today for a general readership, Wendy Scott O.B.E brings much to our attention in a rounded reflection on her sixty years of experience and advocacy in early education. The highs, principles, histories of morally committed pioneers; developing democratic early educational practice despite the disinterest of wider society; the frustrations and volte-faces of policy and ministers. She highlights the need for educators to maintain vigilance and articulate ‘what quality is and should be’ in the face of seas of change and ignorance in recent and contemporary times – and from her own experience reminds of the need for individuals to find their ways to keep rooted and also open.
Wendy Scott is an early years teacher with extensive experience in the PVI sector as well as schools. Headship of a demonstration nursery school was followed by a senior lectureship at Roehampton University, where she co-ordinated the original advanced diploma in multi-professional studies.
Wendy has been an early years and primary inspector in London, and has worked across England as an OFSTED Registered Inspector and trainer. She led The British Association for Early Childhood Education and chaired the national Early Childhood Forum before becoming a specialist adviser to the DfES, and working abroad with the British Council and UNICEF. She is has been President of TACTYC, the Association for Professional Development in Early Years, and has judged the Nursery World Nursery of the Year competition since 2008. She was awarded an OBE for services to education in 2015.
“I learned a great deal from the children, families and communities in London’s Docklands and the East End where I started teaching in 1961. Conditions were not much better than those faced by the McMillan sisters in Deptford half a century earlier. Children played on unreconstructed bomb sites, and many, including immigrant families, lived in difficult conditions. My college training had not equipped me with necessary knowledge about bed bugs, or prison visiting, so I had a lot to learn …”
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