4 May 2011

Nigeria: Is Modern Montessori School the Best Option?

Experts suggest that the Montessori Method of Education aims at developing the hidden potentials of the child in an atmosphere of freedom to explore his/her environment. Like wildfire, this method is fast gaining root in Nigeria, reports Stella Eze.

The Modern Montessori International, London brought its campaign to Abuja recently with a view to opening the eyes of educators, educational professionals, selected school owners, heads of schools as well as decision makers and parents involved in early childhood education on the importance and effectiveness of using the Montessori Method of Education.

The MMI Group with branches in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt was in the FCT, at the parley involving the media made clear its intention to also educate teachers to be professionals in the Montessori methods of education. The press conference had in attendance members of the MMI Group frm the UK and other parts of the world with the core presentation being delivered by MMI UK manager Marianne Bourke Gawley.

Part of the message she brought, which would be of immense benefits to the teachers trainees according to her includes: international accreditations, awards and membership which included The International Montessori Council, USA, Montessori Europe, British Accreditation Council and Open and Distance Learning Quality Council. She spoke about the Montessori approach as being a holistic method to develop the whole child. "The fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child's early years frm birth to age six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn".

She explained that children learn best by doing and self-motivation, thereby developing positive images of themselves as confident, successful people. The children work with specially designed and created resources to foster independence and love of learning at an early age. It allows children to learn in a prepared environment that is made just for them; carefully prepared, with child-sized learning tools and aids to learn all of life skills necessary development. The prepared environment contains sensorial materials, mathematics, language and cultural studies materials, art and creativity materials as well as social skills materials and well trained teachers.

Gawley also explained that the greatest proof of the effectiveness of the Montessori Method of Education is the overwhelming results recorded frm its usage. Researches show benefits of the Montessori Education as follows:

  • A unique method of schooling that focuses on personal development rather than exams produces more mature, creative and socially adept children
  • Psychologists in the US found that across a range of abilities, children at Montessori schools out-performed those given a traditional education
  • Five-year-old Montessori pupils were better prepared for reading and maths, and 12-year-olds wrote "significantly more creative" essays using more sophisticated sentence structures
  • Some of the biggest differences were seen in social skills and behaviour.
  • Montessori children displayed a greater sense of "justice and fairness", interacted in an "emotionally positive" way, and were less likely to engage in "rough play" during break times

The Montessori Method is an approach to educating children based on the research and experiences of an Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952). It arose essentially frm Dr. Montessori's discovery of what she referred to as "the child's true normal nature" in 1907, which happened in the process of her experimental observation of young children given freedom in an environment prepared with materials designed for their self-directed learning activity. The method itself aims to duplicate this experimental observation of children to bring about, sustain and support their true natural way of being.

Applying this method involves the teacher in viewing the child as having an inner natural guidance for his or her own perfect self-directed development. The role of the teacher (sometimes called director, directress, or guide) is therefore to watch over the environment to remove any obstacles that would interfere with this natural development. The teacher's role of observation sometimes includes experimental interactions with children, commonly referred to as 'lessons', to resolve misbehaving or to show how to use the various self-teaching materials that are provided in the environment for the children's free use.

The method is primarily applied with young children (age 2-6), due to the young child's unique instincts and sensitivity to conditions in the environment. However, it is sometimes conducted with elementary school children (age 6-12) and occasionally with infants and toddlers, as well as at the middle and high school level.

Most pre-school teachers and even parents are becoming aware and interested in this unique method of education. Participants at the parley believe that in a country like ours, the entrance of the Modern Montessori International Group into Nigeria, through their franchise partnership with Chelis Education Consult Limited, will be fulfilling the dreams and expectations of many Nigerians in the (education) Diaspora. This much awaited entrance has birthed the opportunity for millions of Nigerians desiring to experience the true touch of international and world-standard training method and skills acquisition in using the Montessori Method of Education.

Within its first year in the country, the centre has trained many Nigerian teachers and proprietors, including some well-meaning parents who are now fully certified 'Montessorians' through their various International Diploma Courses and Workshops.

They call on the general public, school owners, government and parastatals to join in this move of advancing the Montessori Method of Education in our public and private schools for the sake of the children who are the future.

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