Sometimes, no news is good news. At Montessori School Bali, while exciting projects are under development, such as new natural outdoor playgrounds and a BMX track, in our classrooms things stay very much the same as they have in authentic Montessori classrooms around the world for many decades.
Why on earth would that be a good thing? You might be forgiven for thinking that advances in science would have allowed for an evolution of the Montessori method of teaching.
What keeps happening instead, however, is that scientific studies confirm that Dr Maria Montessori’s style of teaching children was a century ahead of her time. She anticipated some of the latest and best findings in developmental psychology today, so in fact it’s a very good thing that nothing is changing in authentic Montessori classrooms, such as those you’ll find at Montessori School Bali.
Montessori has a longer track record of success than any other educational approach in the world. In a world changing rapidly, something so solid, time-tested and now proven has never been needed so much. “If schooling were evidence-based, I think all schools would look a lot more like Montessori schools,” writes Dr Angeline Stoll Lillard in her book “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius”. Dr Steven Hughes, a paediatric neuropsychologist who specialises in education and brain development, says: “If a neuropsychologist designed a school today, it would not look like a conventional school, but more like a Montessori one.”
So what is Montessori? Grounded in an entire philosophy for life, it was developed after Dr Montessori, Italy’s first female physician, carried out exacting observations of children from various backgrounds. Specifically, she found that all people have the same human tendencies that are used to help them grow and develop; these tendencies show in different ways as a child grows into an adult. An environment specially designed to allow the child to meet those tendencies, she also found, allowed children to develop optimally, with joy and excitement. As a child moves through different stages of growth — infancy, childhood, adolescence — the way tendencies are expressed changes, and so the environment the child is in has to change, too.
Classrooms are therefore specially prepared with particular materials and with a particular environment to allow children to respond to their natural tendency to be curious and to follow their interests. Within a structured framework, children progress at their own pace and rhythm.
What do the studies show? One longitudinal study, published in 2017 and looking at children aged three to six, found that over time Montessori children fared better on measures of academic achievement, social understanding, and mastery orientation. They reported relatively more liking of scholastic tasks, and scored higher on executive function when they were aged four. This study also found the difference in academic achievement between lower income Montessori and higher income conventionally schooled children was smaller at each time point, and statistically insignificant by the time the study ended.
Other studies have shown that Montessori-educated children at the age of 12 show more creativity and flexibility, and have a more positive attitude to social interactions, too.
Neuroscience meanwhile confirms what Dr Montessori argued: That there are particular times in a child’s development when the mind can absorb skills readily. A Montessori teacher will feed children the skills they need when they observe their brain has reached the right stage of development.
A key foundational element of Montessori is the connection between freedom of movement and learning. Cursive writing is an integral part of literacy development in a Montessori classroom. While some mainstream schools no longer teach it, Dr Montessori saw cursive as an example of crucial learning through movement and the senses. Research now corroborates the hand-brain connection, proving that new pathways in the brain develop as children use their hands. One study found that primary students need at least “15 minutes of handwriting daily for cognitive, writing and motor skills and reading comprehension improvement.”
Many schools now call themselves “Montessori”. It’s important that parents ask about what this means and investigate whether a school is authentically Montessori. Are teachers trained with a recognised Montessori body? Are there genuine Montessori materials in the classrooms? Other fundamental elements include multi-age classrooms and three-hour work cycles.
Montessori School Bali, with programmes for babies through to adolescents, is an authentic Montessori school, ticking all of the above, and offering expansive, beautiful grounds. The school is even attracting families to Bali so they can attend.
“My children have been at a Montessori school in Australia for several years and we have been highly pleased with how they learn there,” Australian mum Lisa Wiking says. “To find a school offering a genuine Montessori approach in such beautiful surrounds in Bali was the deciding factor in us making the move here. My kids will be getting an education that science shows is the best for their development, while we live on an island we have long loved.”
Address : Jl Raya Semat 66, Canggu
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