Montessori Education is powerful in shaping global minds

By on May 10, 2017

Throughout history, the family has played a major role in educating children with schools providing instructional scaffolding. The influence of home that parents make for children to develop and build strength of character, unique personal attributes and skills is no doubt, huge.

But as the world moves into one of the fastest innovative time in history, so too have the widening gap between knowledge and traditional workers, and the disintegration of families in contemporary society made an impact on people’s lives. The role of schools have never been as important as the present.

Compared to children in the 50s, today’s breed of learners are at an advantage in terms of access to new educational tools and ways of thought. Not only has technology brought many cultures and foreign languages closer together, it has also opened new jobs that never existed 30-40 years ago. A software engineer from Japan for example may find himself a job in Dubai or a scientist in Ireland can land a job in China. Parents today have a lot to be excited about for their children’s future. The job market has just become global.  With 21st century career readiness in mind, thinking ahead which roadmap is suitable for the present generation of learners has become truly important.

But first, what does it really mean to be educated in this generation?

In the words of radical management expert Steve Denning, it is ” the ability to think critically, to listen, to evaluate facts, to reason analytically, to imagine creatively, to articulate interesting questions, to explore alternative viewpoints, to maintain intellectual curiosity and to speak and write persuasively. If we add to that a reasonable familiarity with the treasures of history, literature, theatre, music, dance and art that previous civilizations have delivered, we are getting close to the meaning of educated.

Peter Sims, best-selling author of  “How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries” suggests breakthrough results by famous people such as the late Steve Jobs, architect Frank Gehry of Pixar films and other 200 renowned innovators of all time, happened as a result of small, experimental steps to discover and develop new ideas.

In an interesting six-year study by one professor from Brigham University and Hal Gregersen of business school INSEAD involving 3,000 global executives and 500 people who either started their own company or invented products about how they think, the Montessori school of thought stood out.

Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Will Wight, American video game designer and co-founder of Maxis are just some of the many elites who benefited from the Montessori learning method.

Among the four major influencers in the Tech industry,  Larry Page openly credits his success to his Montessori education. Google’s co-founder was also a Montessori alumni throughout his elementary grades and both acknowledge it had a big influence in the design of Google’s work systems.

Larry Page when interviewed for Google said, “My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society. As a world, we’re doing a better job of that. My goal is for Google to lead, not follow.”

These pronouncements have ticked all Montessori principles in the right places. The Montessori school of thought is one that goes beyond the entire education system. It resonates with people and societies all over the world for its universal appeal and concern for humanity and global peace.

Founder Dr. Maria Montessori believes in giving freedom to the child. In an authentic Montessori environment, a child is allowed to freely choose his learning tool and make his own discovery at an uninterrupted time which serves a social purpose.

The Asssociation Montessori Internationale (AMI), a non-profit organization in charge of promoting and furthering the Montessori method, lists the following child-centred learning environment as a must:

Multi-age classrooms.
Classrooms have mixed age children. Montessori is not just for preschoolers. There are Montessori schools that have programs up to high school level.
Benefit: It promotes a collaborative environment with no grading and testing.

Student chooses his own activity from a prescribed range of options.
Benefit: Discovery where students understand concepts from learning materials as opposed to instruction

Specialized Montessori materials
Benefit: Age-appropriate materials match developmental stage of children. Only materials that support the child’s development are present in classrooms.

Freedom of Movement in the classroom
Benefit: Aids the child in developing independence

A trained Montessori teacher
Montessori teachers have a normal teacher qualification and certified to have undergone specific training. Montessori teachers are supported by a Montessori assistant whose job is to support the teacher in maintaining peace and order in the classroom.
Benefit: Children get the needed nurturing, love and attention from knowledgeable staff about best practices and putting the individual needs and interests of children a priority.

Montessori researchers in Japan gather for a 3-day professional development seminar with “Children and Peace” as theme. Professor Toshiyuki Shiomi talked about “Peace and Education: Expectation for Montessori Education and Child Care in the Mid-Twentieth Century.” He talked about the lessons learned from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the importance of roles adults play in achieving global peace for the benefit of children and future generation.

The local research center of Montessori is the Japan Association of Montessori (JAM) or Nihon Montessori Kyokai. Montessori education in Japan was first introduced in “Yorozu Morning Report” in Jan 1912 but it was not until March 1968 when JAM was fully accredited by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Despite the attention it attracted in the Meiji era, the Montessori methods went against the grain of Japan’s militaristic climate at that time.
The role of the association is to promote Montessori in Japan and work together in studying the best methods for early childhood education.

Montessori classrooms

Bright and spacious Montessori classroom

Classroom space is well defined according to purpose. Each classroom is made suited to the needs of the children. The use of bright coloured decor with images of cartoons or posters are in one space while some areas are calm and peaceful. There are no school desks like you will find in a traditional classroom setting. The rooms are well organized, neat and sanitized.

Why is being free important?

Montessori is not religion. It is a learning approach essentially modeled to shape human beings as changes occur over the course of their life. Dr. Maria Montessori believes that if a child is exposed to a free, nurturing environment within limits, without being shun but offered guidance, he does things by himself and in the process, learn with long-lasting advantages.

“Character is not an item of knowledge which can be taught through learning or imitation. It is a conquest made during life through personal exercise and through personal experience.” (Montessori, A New World and Education)

Can a Montessori program be international and  Japanese?

Yes.  A Montessori curriculum can have cultural elements fused with math, science, language, art and music while teaching a child to respect every culture preparing him to be a caring, engaged global citizen.

Here are 5 Montessori facts all parents should know

1. The Montessori trademark was never patented because Maria Montessori never did it for money.
In the United States and elsewhere, a school can use the term “Montessori” freely without complying with the original Montessori method.  So to understand the difference between a ‘fake’ Montessori and the ‘real’ thing, it is best  to  know the whole Montessori package.
2. According to The Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 3-11-year-old Montessori students had higher scores than control groups on mathematics and science.
3. Montessori schools are not franchised, thus, they are usually small, having no more than 100 students. They are individually owned for profit while some are not.
4. Montessori materials are sensorial and exclusively designed to stimulate the five senses. Other materials available are for learning and discovery.  Only in upper school level can materials be developed by teachers. 5. Not everyone can call themselves Montessori Teachers. A true Montessori teacher has been fully trained and is experienced in Montessori principles, concepts and methods. Ask for credentials when you are shopping for a school for your child.

 

About Marlow Hauser

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