In January 1907 the first Montessori school Casa dei Bambini / ‘The Children’s House’, opened it’s doors in Rome, San Lorenzo. At‘The Children’s House’ the Montessori philosophy and curriculum therefore continuously developed and Dr. Maria Montessori’s approach in educating young children began to spread rapidly around the world. Montessori quickly gained recognition. Visitors were travelling from all parts of the world to see for themselves the successful and stimulating teaching and learning.
A century later we may ask – how well has the ‘Montessori Method’ stood the test of time? Pretty good, one would say, as today one can find more than 40,000 schools worldwide carrying both Montessori’s name and her method of education. Montessori educational method is built around the sensitive periods following the child’s inner energy for acquiring certain knowledge spontaneously. The approach provides guidance on how to prepare a stimulating environment that both is aligned with the specifics of the sensitive periods and enables the fulfilment of the individual child’s potential. The goal is allowing children to grow and develop in a carefully planned and prepared environment run by specially trained adults whose expertise lies in being skilled and careful observers who recognise readiness within the child; adults who respect children’s freedom of individual development in a non-competitive surrounding.
As nowadays in Bulgaria, early years’ education has been a hot issue in many countries around the world where early years curriculum’s and approaches have been revised, developed, re-revised and further developed. For instance, at the UK we can clearly see this progression. Between year 2000 and 2007 the government invests millions of pounds on delivering three adding-value documents – ‘Foundation Stage Curriculum Guidance’, ‘Birth to Three’ and ‘Every Child Matters’. These were brought together and in 2007 the curriculum framework was launched – ‘Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)’ , which is now used throughout the English‐speaking world as the global ‘gold‐standard’ curriculum for pre‐schools. This development is a fantastic and outstanding progress as our youngest citizens are getting the attention they deserve.
Several research studies have also been carried out in order to improve teaching approaches for children. In the UK the gap between the National Curriculum and the Montessori approach and curriculum has been closing fast. Results from two study schools in the UK have shown that children benefit from the Montessori way of learning and as a result are better prepared to enter the mainstream classroom due to their ability to work individually as well as in groups; having been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, to exchange ideas and discuss their work freely; and having mastered good communication and problem solving skills. As a result, mainstreaming the Montessori approach is growing into a number of traditional schools.
Additionally, a comprehensive study carried out in USA by two prominent researchers – Angeline Lillard and Nicole Else-Quest, supports the findings in the UK. It’s findings illustrate how the children from the study’s Montessori test schools outperformed the children from the study’s traditional control schools in terms of overall holistic development (social, emotional and cognitive development). What makes this study particularly interesting is that the children participating from both test and control schools came from similar backgrounds and were drawn from a lottery.
Due to the findings of studies as these, Montessori schools in UK illustrate the benefits the approach brings to early years settings. In addition, Montessori Centre International (MCI), which is a leading Montessori teacher training institute, has begun to train traditional teachers the Montessori way. This progression has led to a closer relationship between the Montessori progressive approach and the traditional. In 2008, Barbara Isaacs of the MCI and Ruth Pimentel, National Director of the Early Years National Strategies (UK), worked together to develop the document ‘Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage in Montessori Settings’. This guideline demonstrates how the Montessori approach and curriculum shares the underpinning principles, as well as, meets the requirements of the EYFS without compromising the Montessori principles and vice versa, that is, how the EYFS supports the Montessori approach.
The positive aspect with that progress is therefore the development of joined-up thinking where we together are working towards improving the learning experience for our young ones.
“The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” Dr. Maria Montessori