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New wave education methodology - Montessori gains popularity in India

Sunday, 20 October 2013 - 6:04pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

The Montessori method and other forms of new wave education aren't that new abroad but these forms of teaching have been rapidly increasing in India.

About the Montessori Method

The Montessori Method is the brainchild of Dr. Maria Montessori. She believed that the child possesses the ability to direct his own development and it is the duty of the adult to provide him with a a beautifully prepared environment that can help him in this process of development. 

The Montessori Method focuses on 4 main areas, namely; 

1. Exercises of Practical Life - This area consists of material that is familiar to the child and is an extension of his own home environment. the children carry out activities that cater to their fine and gross motor movements, that help in the development of social skills, that help build physical and spiritual equilibrium and thus ultimately lead to the development of will, independence and the co-ordination of movement. 

The activities are as follows; carrying and putting down tables, chairs, trays, jugs etc. ,folding clothes, pouring water and grains, cutting, sticking, colouring, peeling and chopping fruits and vegetables, sweeping, washing a table, setting up a table, dressing up, grooming, carrying a book, turning the pages of a book, working together with a friend, speaking with respect, gardening, taking care of pets,walking on a line etc.

2. Sensorial Activities- This area consists of scientifically made material that cater to the various senses of the child, namely; the senses related to eyes (visual), nose (Olfactory), ears (auditory), taste(Gustatory), touch (Tactile, Kinesthetic, Stereognostic ). The children, therefore, refine each one of their senses and are more aware and appreciative of the various objects in their surroundings.

3. Language- This area focuses on the language of the child. Right from the time that the child enters the Children's House (classroom), the teacher focuses on building up the language of the child by constantly conversing with the child and providing him with precise names for objects in the environment. Rhymes, stories, conversations, oral games, sound games etc. help develop the child's linguistic skills. Gradually, writing and reading are focused on in a very natural progression.

4. Arithmetic - Here, the focus is on developing the ability of the child to calculate and judge. Again, the material is scientifically made and the children gradually understand values and quantities in a logical pattern. 

Another area that this method focuses on is Culture(History, Geography, Science etc.). Culture is incorporated in all four areas.

All areas in the method are interlinked and each area helps prepare the child, both directly and indirectly for the other areas.

The children studying at a Montessori School are given freedom within certain limits and this helps them work at their own pace. Children are free to choose any activity, they are free to work anywhere in the classroom and with whoever they want as long as they don't disturb the rest of the children and don't misuse the material. the teachers do not provide unnecessary help and usually observe the children to ensure that the right kind of help is provided.The children work towards their own development while at the same time helping each other thus developing a community that works with a great amount of love and respect for oneself and each other. 

(Information provided by Amal Irfan)

Amal M Irfan, a 25-years-old teacher gives us an insight into the Montessori Method of education. Amal is a Montessori Directress and is completing her second year at Aseema Charitable Trust, an NGO that works towards the education of underprivileged children at MCGM schools. The NGO follows the Montessori Method of education. 

At the age of 16, she obtained an ECCE (Early Childhood Care Education) Diploma which kick-started her journey into the world of education. Amal goes on to tell us about her introduction into the field, "In the past, I have tutored four children, one of whom was dyslexic. I have interned in the pre primary section at St. Andrews High School, volunteered at UCDC (Urban Community Development Centre) for a month while at St. Andrew's College, volunteered at an NGO called Salaam Balak as part of the Rotaract Club of Government Law College, volunteered at the Children's Observation Home in Dongri ( Juvenile Home) and spearheaded a Gandhi Jayanti Program as part of the Legal Aid Committee of Government Law College."

"I, then, went on to obtain an AMI Diploma in Montessori Education from the Ratan Tata Institute, Mumbai and am currently pursuing a Master of Education(Early Childhood Education with Montessori Concentration) at the University of Hartford, Connecticut, USA."

The Montessori method and other forms of new wave education aren't that new abroad but these forms of teaching have been rapidly increasing in India. Most people aren't aware of these new wave methods, and so I went on to ask Amal a few questions about the field.

What advantages are there in the new forms of education?

The new forms of education are actually very old but have been recently catching on in India. Dr. Maria Montessori opened up her first Montessori school in Italy in 1907 and Rudolph Steiner's Waldorf Schools have been around since 1919.

These are just two of the many alternate forms of education that are mushrooming in India due to a desire by parents to provide their children with a more constructive and developmental form of education that doesn't bind them to books but provides them with an environment(classroom) that caters to their needs and interests. These approaches to education look at the child as an active participant. 

Are there any problems you face when implementing these methods?

Fortunately, there aren't any major obstacles that deter the implementation of the Montessori Method. Sometimes, minor obstacles like language barriers or parents being unable to understand the method and how it functions can pose a problem However, these are issues that can be tackled. Meetings with parents wherein the method is explained can help them notice remarkable differences in their children over time. 

Do you think these new methods should replace the old ones or be used in addition to them?

 It would be great to see the Montessori Method replacing the traditional methods followed in many schools. But, as it is not easy to replace the old methods with the new, we can try to apply principles and materials into the already existing curriculum.

Each method/approach has its significant features. However, it is important to choose a method that is more child-centred. The child needs to be the active participant and the emphasis should be on his development through means that are suited to his needs The environment should tap into his inner potential, feed his imagination and curiosity,thus, providing him with a key to the whole world.

As a teacher do you think this new wave education is given enough importance?

Fortunately, many schools are now opening up to the idea of a more constructive form of education. Teacher Training Centres are incorporating these methods into their existing curriculum. An increasing number of parents have been enrolling their children in schools that follow the Montessori Method and this has led to an increase in the number of such schools. It will take a while but, soon, we will see a revolution in the education system.

To read about Special Education in India, click here.

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