Alternative education can be defined as any form or method of education that is not traditional. This would include home education (homeschool), charter school, alternative schools, independent schools and more. Typically these education methods consist of small class sizes and good relationship between students and teachers.
Different scholars and philosophers have very contrasting ideas in what type of education is right. For example Ralph Wald Emerson and Henry David Thoreau (to name a few) were proponents of progressive education which is based in the belief that humans learn most when doing real-life activities. Educational innovators such as Maria Montessori believe that education is more of an emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual cultivation. There there are Anarchists such as Tolstoy who think education is a means to political endeavors like the eliminations of social classes.
There are many more theories that we could talk about but the bottom line is that there are many alternatives. Luckily, education is not one size fits all and most methods have some merit and can be great for students. This belief is on the rise and is evident in the fact that some districts let their be “school choice”. For example, public schools can have magnet schools which focus in one particular area like performing arts or science.
Many alternative school methods were brought about in the 1970’s to give options rather than traditional public school. Since then these alternative schools (many but not all of them) have become accredited schools with transferable credits. Some of these are for troubled teens that have had discipline or legal problems. In these particular schools they can offer more structure, sometimes in a residential fashion with strict rules and consequences for actions. There are times when teens are court ordered to attend such schools.
It is believed that with different options comes a higher retention rate which means fewer drop outs. The fact that schools can be varied as to meet the needs of the students benefits society as a whole.