One of the most popular theories of education is the child-centered approach of the Montessori Method, designed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Her framework is based off of observations made of children from birth until adulthood, and has, time and again, showed effectiveness across cultures throughout the world. For instance, the Global Indian International School uses a Global Montessori Program (GMP) in their campus in Singapore. And this is accompanied by their globally recognized ‘Nine Gems’ curriculum which promotes a holistic education experience.
The goal of this method is to cultivate a child’s natural inquisitiveness, and to allow them to take initiatives to learn and solve problems. A school that uses the Montessori Method hopes that they will be able to produce students who are not cognitively capable; but those who have also developed the physical, social, and emotional aspects of their life.
Introduction to the Montessori Method
At its core, the Montessori Method represents the different stages of human development. It works on two basic principles:
- Children and adults develop a self-concept (includes their beliefs, perspectives, and values) based on their interaction with the environment
- Children, especially those under the age of 6, have a natural penchant to engage in self-construction
It is the belief of Dr. Montessori, based on her observations, that if a child is left to explore in an environment that has been set up according to her development model, that they would reach optimal development all on her own.
The characteristics of the Montessori program
An authentic Montessori Method creates a triangle between the educator, the child, and the learning landscape. The educator should be able to prepare an environment where students are encouraged to learn independently using the materials meticulously prepared by the school. The child then makes use of the environment and the parameters set by the educator to develop themselves. This can be done through peer learning like collaborative projects and group discussions or an uninterrupted work time. All of these, of course, will be supervised by the teacher.
There are three significant age groups in the Montessori Method:
- 2 – 2.5 years of age – when a child’s natural tendency to be curious is nurtured
- 5 – 6 years of age – when children are expected to repeat definitions and concepts learnt in class
- 6 – 12 years of age – when children are expected to discuss abstract concepts with each other and are able to formulate their own ideas through reasoning and creativity
Multi-age groupings are encouraged by the Montessori Method. The goal is to allow the younger students to learn from older students, and for older students to reinforce their learning by teaching it to them. This is to mirror what happens outside of school, when individuals collaborate with each other no matter the age and disposition. By identifying the three most sensitive periods in a child’s learning, the Montessori Method aims to provide the appropriate lessons and materials where learning is naturally internalized.
Accompanying a holistic education framework with the Montessori education theory
International schools have an edge when it comes to maximizing the use of the Montessori Method. They do this by pairing it with their very own educational framework which focuses on providing students with holistic education.
A holistic education is a philosophy talks about finding identity, meaning, and purpose through an individual’s interaction with the community. This means that schools who have adopted this approach is hoping to produce students who are not just academically excellent, but who also value compassion and peace, and has aimed to have a deeper understanding of the natural world.
They do this through the ‘understanding by design’ teaching method, which can best be summarized through this learning taxonomy:
- Repeating concepts – students can recite textbook definitions and concepts
- Application – students can apply what they have learnt through collaborative projects
- Analysis – students can explain how these concepts work in the real world based on the results of their application
- Creative thinking – students can formulate their own ideas or expound on a concept
Benefits of the Montessori Method
- The Montessori Method acknowledges that each child has a unique way of learning. What the method wants to do is to accommodate to these varying learning styles so that students can learn freely and at their own pace.
- The multi-age classroom promotes a sense of community. Older students play the role of mentors to younger children; therefore, allowing younger kids to get the support they need and build confidence when facing challenges. This setting also promotes peaceful conflict resolution, especially if differing ideas are emerging from their discussions.
- The students will be able to focus on what they need to learn through the parameters set by their teachers. Freedom within limits encourages a child’s curiosity and feeds their internal satisfaction by constantly providing new learning materials and puzzles for them to solve as their learning progresses.
The Montessori Method, and indeed, the holistic education philosophy, will produce individuals who will actively seek knowledge and will understand that true learning involves getting in touch with the community. When choosing the best place for our kids to get their education, it may be in our best interest to choose a school which offers both.