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Published: April 3, 2011

British Infant School

A British primary school that uses play as the central activity for teaching children between the ages of five and seven or eight. Developed in the late 1960s, British Infant Schools sparked the expansion of so-called OPEN EDUCATION in the United States. Somewhat loosely based on the theories of Swiss psychologist JEAN PIAGET, the British Infant School proceeds on the theory that children cannot learn a specific activity until their physical, intellectual and emotional development permit. Thus, rather than grouping children by age, ability or other conventional basis, British Infant Schools allow children to group themselves instinctively. Groups are usually small and tend to have children whose ages may differ, but whose reasoning abilities tend to be similar. Learning activities are selfdirected, with teachers simply suggesting a general theme as a play activity and serving as informal guides to help children learn whatever they need to know to play successfully. Unlike the methods prevailing at conventional schools, student learning is never segregated into distinct times for learning to read, write or calculate. Instead, students learn many skills simultaneously. Instruction is informal, and students learn at their own pace in a nonthreatening environment.
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