Montessori Education: What does it have to Offer to Parents?
Montessori initially focused her pedagogical approach on working with the youngest children during their first plane of development, particularly the three- to six-year-olds. As she engaged with teachers and families, her work extended to the older children, as evidenced in the two volumes of Advanced Montessori Method, initially published in 1916 and 1918. Her ideas developed further during her teaching in the Netherlands in the mid 1930’s and whilst living in exile in India during the World War II, and resulted in the 1948 publications of From Childhood to Adolescence and also To Educate the Human Potential. In the post WWII years, she also expanded her ideas about the care and education of babies and toddlers.
Current interest in offering Montessori Education from birth to 16, or even 18, is reflected in the growing numbers of schools which offer not only day care provision for the children in their first plane of development but also school provision for elementary children and increasingly, parents also select Montessori secondary provision for their adolescent children. However, global statistics show that the number of preschool settings far exceeds the elementary provision and is very small indeed when looking at the availability of Montessori schools for the oldest children in compulsory education. Yet the majority of Montessorians believe in the value of continuity of the pedagogy and have witnessed the benefits it brings to young people who have graduated from Montessori high schools as they ventured towards learning in the fourth plane of development from 18 to 24 years of age.
So why this discrepancy?
Some of the challenges lie in the fact that preschool provision is non compulsory and to some extent less regulated than compulsory education which begins in most countries around the age of 6, at the start of the second plane of development. Many parents can manage to financially contribute to the cost of preschool provision, however find it economically more challenging to commit to eight or even twelve years of private education.
Then there is the tension between the learning offered to children in Montessori schools and what is required and perceived by the education departments in all countries as essential curriculum to prepare children for university and working life. The discrepancy between what is required by the state and what Montessori has to offer to their children as they grow older, brings further pressure on parents making a decision about their children’s schooling.
These challenges are further enhanced by the differences in what is considered to be a successful pupil by the education system, where teaching is guided towards achievement in examination results rather than development of students’ creativity, curiosity and joy of learning. These qualities are highlighted in all discussion of the requirements for our future workforce. Artificial intelligence will play a significant part in the economic success of every country within the next 10 years; at the same time flexibility, excellent communication skills and interpersonal relationships will govern the success of not only countries but also of each individual human being.
It seems that so few of our education systems focus on the development of the whole individual and recognise the need to foster curiosity, joy of learning, and emotional well-being. An education system which offers the child an agency, respect and values collaboration as been called for by many including Sir Ken Robinson who advocated in one of his Ted Talks that “… education needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child and to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
Is this something that Montessori education through the three planes of development (birth to 16/18) has the potential to offer? Find out in our next webinar on Wednesday 25 May at 19.00 (CEST) where we will be in conversation with three Montessori educators about their approach to offering meaningful learning experiences to adolescents and how they share their unique message with parents. Register here.