Describe What Montessori Meant by ‘New Education’

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Describe what Montessori meant by ‘New Education’. As we know of our world today, there has been lots of development in technology and in its economy, progressed. However, despite all these good progresses, man still do not seem to be able to live in harmony, both with himself and the world around him. There have been two World Wars, which have been disastrous and still a lot of cruelty, warfare and poverty prevailing in the world. Man is still facing conflict and sufferings in the modern world.

When will all these difficult times come to an end? Maria Montessori, a dynamic lady, began to realise that a reformation had to take place in order for the world to develop into a more peaceful and harmonious place to live in, with its society civilised and matured to their fullest potential. It further dawned on her that should there be a change, it should be in the education system as the traditional system is still unable to find a solution to man’s problems. This is required for the regeneration of mankind.

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Thus, Maria Montessori has been emphasising the need for the world to change their focus and start concentrating on the children, allow them to develop freely and understanding their need for mental growth since “childhood constitutes the most important element in an adults’ life, for it is in his early years that a man is made. ” (The Secret of Childhood, Introduction, p. 4) It is through the education of our children that a new generation of fulfilled and well-balanced adults would be born to lead the world towards peace and harmony.

It is with this understanding that gave birth to the new education system which proves to be effective around the world today. Maria Montessori had found that the earliest years of a child proved to be his most important years. The child has actually begun his learning process from birth itself. In the first three years of a child’s life, there seem to already be a painstaking teacher at work. This is to be the child’s inner guide of nature. Adults always mistake a child in these years to be incapable and just a baby that needs to be fed and put to sleep.

However, the child has “a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself. ” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 1, p. 5) For example, it is a marvel that a child is able to learn his parents’ tongue, and yet it is a great intellectual feat for an adult to pick up a language. Therefore, it is necessary that the adult realise that they need to adapt to a more passive attitude in order to aid in the child’s development as he is ever learning.

Initially, the child will begin his mental growth at birth and pursue it with a greater intensity to eventually build his mind. Thus, the “reform of education must be based on the personality of Man. ” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 1, p. 8) Page 1 We then witness the development of the New Man, able to direct and lead the future of mankind. Maria Montessori has found that people form their various personalities through their experiences when interacting with their different environments. It is the sensitivity to absorb and learn.

This is even more apparent in the early years of a child who is most receptive to his surroundings. The natural development of a child proceeds through several different distinct planes of development, each very unique in its own way and its sensitive periods in acquiring life’s lessons. “A sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a creature acquires to its infantile state…. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait. ” (The Secret of Childhood, Chapter 7, p. 8) Basically, meaning to say that in a particular sensitive period, a child may be probed by his own will to learn a particular skill, and he will do so till he has perfected the skill. Once perfected, the child will naturally drop the activity and proceed on to something else. With the traditional education system, a child is always forced to a particular task and is required to complete the task as instructed by a teacher, thus depriving him of the freedom to perfect and progress at his own rate of speed as he desired during that sensitive period.

If parents or teachers were to impede the development of a particular sensitive period, the development of the child in that particular area of growth will never be fulfilled and will be lost for good. Therefore, Maria Montessori believed that it is most important that in the new education system to “discover the potentialities of each of the students and of offering him the means and motives which could awaken his latent energies so that he might continue to use, expand and coordinate them through proper exercise. ” (Maria Montessori: The Discovery of a Child, Chapter 2, p. 33)

In order for the child to develop at his full potential, the teacher plays a vital role in guiding a child accordingly. In the new education system, it is important that the teacher understands that she needs to be an observer in the classroom and that the child should be given the freedom for self-directed learning according to his individual interest. The teacher should come across as a loving and caring guide, only there to assist the child to achieve his fullest potential and whole personality. The child must feel confident and free to be able to experiment and realise his true talent.

However, in the traditional system, “rewards and punishments are employed to compel children to conform to the laws of the world. ” (Maria Montessori: The Discovery of a Child, Chapter 1, p. 13) Instead, teachers should encourage the child to perform and progress at his own rate. A child may take longer to perfect a skill as Page 2 compared to another, but he shall be rewarded irrespectively for his perseverance. This would inspire the child to excel in every way as every child is most capable of learning. A child is constantly developing and learning.

Maria Montessori believes that a child has an absorbent mind whereby from the time of birth till the age of six, his intelligence and psychic powers are being formed “who is the creator of the adult’s personality. ” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 3, p. 22) The child is naturally able to incorporate all of his experiences that he gathers from his environment directly into his whole basic character and personality. This mental state allows a child to learn many concepts effortlessly and in a spontaneous manner. The child is capable of absorbing specific skills and perfecting it through repetition.

It is through repetition that he develops his habits and physical being. As each child is an individual of his own, thus he will have his sensitive period to absorb his life’s lessons. Therefore, the environment that the child is in needs to be interesting and interactive for him to be able to achieve his optimum. In the Montessori education system, children engage in hands-on activities, using multi-sensory materials to assist them in their development as “the hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence. ” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 3, p. 7) This discovery and understanding of the child’s ability to absorb in itself is a revolution in education. In order to assist in the child’s ability to absorb from his environment effectively, a prepared environment is important. This specially prepared environment provides the child with independence off the adult where he can do things on his own without always depending on the help of adults. It is through this independence and the passive guidance of the teacher that the child is able to perfect his specific skills.

It is also important that “a school allows a child’s activities to freely develop. ” (Maria Montessori: The Discovery of a Child, Chapter 1, p. 19) Activities in this environment help build a child’s natural interest, a sense of order and help him develop good working habits. This special environment needs to be equipped with a particular series of scientifically developed materials, “the apparatus” that are organized according to subject, degree of difficulty and complexity that will help the child.

All materials are displayed on low open shelves for independent use allowing children the freedom to pick and choose materials based on their natural instincts and interests for selfdirected learning. Also, the furniture used in a Montessori school plays an important role as it creates comfort, instead of intimidation. The furniture used here are not rigid like it is in Page 3 traditional schools. Maria Montessori advocates the use of child size furniture and floor mats to allow freedom of movement and independence when these children are at work.

Maria Montessori also found that when a child is given the freedom to work in his secured environment, he actually learns spontaneously. Children enjoy carrying out their activities in an orderly manner when in a prepared environment. They are also seen to be able to concentrate better and persevere to achieve perfection through repetition. However, when a child is not given the opportunity to freely develop, by working in a suitable environment, the child then is unable to optimize his mental growth.

The child then misbehaves, is disorderly, lazy and disobedient. A child needs to be brought back to his natural state of being. This can be achieved simply by a general understanding that “work and freedom are normally needed for the child’s development. ” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 19, p. 205) Only “normalized” children, assisted by their environment are able to portray characteristics such as discipline, a happy to be at work state of mind, kindness and perseverance which is necessary for peace and harmony in a society.

When a person enters a Montessori classroom, they would generally realise that the children there comprise of various ages. Maria Montessori has found that “children are constantly learning from each other. ” (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, Chapter XVI, p. 277) A child may be watching another child working on a particular material or activity, and that is fine as long as the child watching does not interrupt the other working. This in itself is a learning process for the child watching.

Also, sometimes a child who had been earlier taught the use of a particular material may pass on his knowledge to another child. At other times, an elderly child may be asked as to how to do something and the elderly child readily responds with patience and kindness. All in all, children learn from one another. Apart from that, Maria Montessori found that this was “an excellent social training for all ages concerned. ” (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, Chapter XVI, p. 77) Therefore, children upon leaving the Montessori schools and moving onwards to the elementary level of the education are already equipped with social and communication skills which respond to those who do not understand the new educational system and believe that it is individualistic and lacking in social skills. In conclusion, Maria Montessori believed that this new education must begin from birth for it to be effective. However, as every child, irrespective of age is capable of learning Page 4 and will absorb from his environment, thus providing him with the right environment and tools will help him develop to the fullest.

In order to achieve this, the teacher’s role as a guide and observer is most vital. With this in mind, this method of education has slowly but surely gained popularity in the world as the chosen method to educate children who are indeed the future of our mankind. Page 5 Bibliography Montessori, M. , The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company New York, 1995 Montessori, M. , The Discovery of a Child, Random House Publishing Group, 1972 Standing, E. M. , Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, Plume New, 1998 Montessori, M. , The Secret of Childhood, Ballantine Books New York, 1972 Page 6

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