The traditional learning environment has essentially remained intact in the last 100 years. Curricula’s educational aims and method of presenting them remain somewhat the same: teaching en masse and for the masses is the general norm globally. The score-based culture in schools is predominant, and education has become an issue of teaching AT children - a frantic attempt to scramble through syllabus which must then be memorised for just long enough to be able to pass the next test or exam; afterwards the information is often forgotten because most of the times it’s irrelevant and meaningless. In this system, both teacher and student are the victims. Neither the teachers nor the students are meaningfully engaged in the learning process.
It has been proven: Learning out of fear of failing a test or exam does nothing to motivate or achieve learning. Also, learning without meaning or overall context cannot be assimilated in the long run. But there is another way, which is at the heart of Montessori philosophy: Engaging the child in the learning process, and following the child’s innate desire to learn and explore the world.
The Montessori method is based on the fact that there is an intrinsic need and desire for discovering Maths, Science, History, Geography, Biology, Culture and Languages; indeed for all things humans can observe, discover and engage in. And this is why the Montessori method is so efficient and successful.
There are several principles that the Montessori method is based on, all of which have derived from scientific observations of children, an endeavour that started more than a hundred years ago by Dr Maria Montessori, an Italian scientist, pedagogue, doctor and anthropologist, among others.
The Montessori method is unique in that it nurtures independence. The Montessori classroom environment is prepared in such a way that children naturally acquire the skills and knowledge that aren’t taught in a conventional sense. Young children, as young as three (and often younger) are sweeping floors, washing dishes, tidying up desks and chairs, and acquiring life skills that foster the creation of independence and self-sufficiency. All children are exposed to educational material that are self-correcting, without their teacher pointing out their mistakes in a traditional way. Mistakes are found and in turn corrected, by the child herself. All of the above, with the guidance of a Montessori teacher, otherwise known as ‘guide’, who is there to teach and continually assess. Which leads us onto our next point.
Learning is done in small groups or individually. The teacher presents the lesson, which is always interactive and broken down to its components, most of the time with hands-on material (the ‘Montessori Material’ most of which have been developed by Maria Montessori herself); simultaneously, because of the nature of the lesson as well as the small size of the group, the guide assesses how and what each child learns. Even though there is a curriculum to follow, mandated first by the Montessori method, but also by the school itself (i.e. the school might choose to follow the country’s Ministry of Education curriculum, e.g. the British/Australian National etc. curriculum) each child is treated as an individual learner, who has different strengths, abilities and pace. A child might belong to its ‘age group’ in one lesson and in an older or younger group in the next lesson. This aims at the actualization of each child’s potentials not only as learners but as individuals as well. And the Montessori method believes that there is a way to reach each and every child, in every single topic: Information presented has to be relevant and meaningful.
Learning for the love of learning is nurtured in a Montessori environment because children get to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how to do it, no matter what subject they happen to be tackling. Simply memorizing/understanding information presented, or answering questions in a book is not how information is acquired. Instead, children are provided with the tools to fully immerse themselves in a subject, and then have the opportunity to practice it repeatedly until they fully make sense of it – in their own time, at their own pace. And this is key to what makes learning less daunting and more fun.
It’s hard to imagine a schooling environment where repeated testing and examining isn’t the norm. Where learning can take place in a way that makes it fun, and not just a means for assessment and scrutiny. Where your child’s innate potential and capabilities can be allowed to flourish, and not be lost in an en masse setting. The Montessori system takes conventional learning practices and transforms them in a way that brings the fun, the mystery and the suspense back into the classroom. It allows your child to cultivate all that they can be, at their own pace, learning valuable life-skills and growth mindsets along the way.
The pervasive mainstream educational system in many schools worldwide is repressing creativity and suffocating innovation and independent learning, three critical skills needed for the world our children live in today, and the world that they will enter upon leaving school. Which is why Montessori works so well. Because creativity, innovation and independent learning are at the core of its educational philosophy.