Is Montessori Education Still Relevant Today?

In today’s world that often seems hurried and over-stimulating as technology is a just a click away, the simple yet precise philosophy of Montessori education definitely fill in the basic needs for learning of preschool children.

Core Philosophy

Maria Montessori, a 20th century educational pioneer and the first female physician in Italy developed what is now known as the Montessori Method. 

At the heart of this educational approach is the observation as the child as the basis for on-going instruction. Within the child is the natural desire to learn.  The role of the teacher is to prepare a learning environment that awakens this desire and to recognize ‘sensitive periods’ in the development of each individual child.

Matching Instruction to the Sensitive Periods

Each child has particular periods when he or she can most easily learn new skills. Understanding and respecting these stages will definitely prevent both frustration and boredom in the whole group instruction.

The child learns prerequisite skills before being taught a more complex skill. For example, Fine motor skills are developed with Practical Life activities before writing is expected. We encourage children to build words with letter sounds using the ‘Movable Alphabet’ material, before we ask them to read.  

Each child has his own Sensitive Period for learning a specific skill. If a child is presented with a skill too early or when not interested, especially in the early years, repercussions can happen. A child may become resistant to learning. The reverse is also true – if we wait too long to present skills, the most ‘sensitive period’ of learning may have passed. The learning road is shorter if these skills are presented at the most appropriate time. 

Montessori Learning Tools

Through Maria Montessori’s observation of challenged, typical and gifted children, she developed a curriculum with a set of learning tools for all areas of development. These learning tools or hands-on materials are self-correcting, increasing in difficulty over time and are purposely arranged in the classroom.

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy,” said Maria Montessori. For more than two decades now, Nasional Montessori teachers have observed and witnessed the children’s over-flowing joy as they learn to concentrate through the various Montessori hands-on materials.

As most of you must have observed, Montessori schools vary in their adherence to the traditional Montessori Method, just like Nasional Montessori. While most of the activities are traditional Montessori, we at Nasional Montessori, incorporate activities that we feel Maria Montessori would have embraced today. These include self-correcting materials, hands-on approaches, and practice aides for the children in all levels, most especially for the Prep children who need to do more Reading exercises and Math drills.

In Nasional Montessori, the children’s initial experiences have prepared and motivated them to begin to branch out into more reading and writing, better understanding of Math concepts and a natural interest to explore the world around them.

Choice of Activity and Uninterrupted Work Time

Children today have to make choices intelligently. Their preparation in Nasional Montessori helps them to achieve this goal as early as preschool age.

A portion of the school day is devoted to individual choice of work time with the materials. Because there is generally one set of each material in the classrooms, children naturally select a range of activities. This approach allows them to experience the excitement of learning. They develop better concentration skills since they are given opportunities to complete work without trappings of a strictly rigid schedule. The teacher observes what choices the children make and do not make, and provide limits as necessary. Children feel in control of learning, building a love of learning over time.

Encouragement of Independence

The physical arrangement of the Montessori classroom is set up so that all the children are free to access the materials with little help from the teachers. They are encouraged to be independent in care-of-self activities, such as buttoning and shoe lacing; care-of-environment activities, such as putting away materials.

Montessori education in a well-prepared environment still remains relevant and will continue to stay relevant in more years to come, even as we marvel at how adept young children are in manipulating electronic gadgets.  

-  prepared by  Tr. Poy