The educational philosophy of Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952)

At the turn of the century, Maria Montessori, a young physician in Rome, Italy, became interested in the education of young children. After many years of observation and working with young children, Dr. Montessori's philosophy and methods became a matter of tremendous interest among educators throughout the world.

The Montessori method is characterised by three distinguishing factors.
  1. A meticulously prepared environment, prepared to be aesthetically intriguing to the young child, calling to his or her needs to learn about, and become an independently functioning person in, his or her world.
  2. The quietly-supportive role of the teacher, who makes himself or herself available to each child as needed, and presents new materials.
  3. The highest degree of respect for the child.
Within the prepared environment, the children are presented with a variety of specially designed materials which address the particular stages of mental, physical and social development.

The Montessori method is a response to a universal plea among children:

It is a method which possesses a certain order, and allows children to proceed at their own pace, according to each child's capacities, in a non-competitive atmosphere. Understanding the necessity for acquisition of a basic skill before using it in a learning situation is imperative. Dr. Montessori said, "Never let a child risk failure, until he has a reasonable chance for success." Through exposure to physical and mental order, children acquire the inner discipline necessary for them to be able to persist in their chosen tasks.

Montessori classes comprise of a mixed age group, namely: 18 mths-3 years, 3-6 years,
6-9 years and 9-12 years. In each mixed age group the younger children learn indirectly form the older children by observing them and the older children consolidate and confirm their knowledge by "teaching" the young ones. The best teacher in the class is an older child! In this environment each individual child works to the best of their ability, seldom comparing themselves. Children learn and progress at their own pace so that fast learners are not held back, and slower learners are not frustrated by their inability to keep up.

In this philosophy, the Montessori method introduces children to the joy of learning, wherein they move themselves through their learning, with confidence and success.

Helen Keller, inspired by Montessori, said: