There are many different types of alternative education programs, and as new theories of education develop, even more programs will be created. In general, alternative education is seen as any type of education that does not adhere to the most common educational standards in an area. Since different areas have different standards, which programs may be considered alternative education programs also differ. Alternative education programs exist for all levels of schooling, from education for the very young to university programs. Often, these schools have very detailed philosophies of teaching and learning, and more can be learned about each program through their informational literature.
One of the most common types of alternative education programs involves strategies for learning that differ from a common textbook model. Learning that is directed by the students, for example, is often a feature of alternative education programs. Many schools find that students are more successful when they can learn about what interests them individually rather than depending on the interests of the group to guide the learning process. There are also many other models of learning that can be used to structure a school.
Schools where students speak in a particular language other than their first during the school day are often considered alternative education programs. While some students might already have fluency in the language used at school, many students do not speak the language in which they are immersed outside of school at all. By integrating language into the school day rather than using coursework, many students develop fluency more readily.
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Some people consider disciplinary schools a form of alternative education. These schools often cater specifically to students who have failed at other schools and may involve more rules and regulations. Also, schools that focus on a single subject or prepare a student for a specific job are sometimes considered a form of alternative education. Usually, these schools continue to follow at least the general structure of other schools and differ primarily in subjects offered.
Any schooling option that is used as an alternative to what is considered normal school in an area can be considered an alternative education program. As such, home schooling is often considered alternative even when it follows the same curriculum as a normal school. Programs for attending school online are also sometimes considered alternative, particularly when they are undertaken by younger students. The philosophy of alternative education in general is that not every student fits the normal model of schooling, so it is important to research all available options in order to make sure that the alternative will be a better fit.