Preparing your child for the next step
All early learning systems view the child as a unique individual with distinct strengths and weakness, abilities and interests. Hence, all of them put the child first, and try to make their methods as child-friendly as possible. Their aims are to help the child develop an interest for learning in preparation for higher levels of education, and bring out positive personality traits in each child.
But for all their similarities, these systems are very different, too. Montessori focuses on independence, responsibility, and creativity and Waldorf trains its sights on creativity and free, uninhibited development. Playway looks to make learning fun so that children want to learn more, while Reggio Emilia looks to projects and cooperation by many people to make learning successful and appealing. Each method, therefore, has its own strengths.
One question that many Indian parents have on their minds, though, is whether the system they choose will equip their child with the ability to handle formal education later on. The consensus seems to be that the curriculum that the child is happiest in, and where she develops the most, is the best for her, and a happy child is most likely to handle any future challenges well.
In the Know: interviews of people in the field
ParentEdge spoke to Suneeta Madnani, Teacher-in-Training in the Ratan Tata Institute (RTI) Montessori Training Institute, Mumbai, to dispel the myths around Montessori. Suneeta has worked for more than 13 years as a Montessori teacher in various schools in Mumbai. Here is what she had to say:
What methods does the Montessori system use to help young children develop?
The basis for Dr. Montessori’s philosophy – it’s not really a method – is that the child in her early years is trying to establish her personality. Dr. Montessori believed that there is potential in every child. And if the environment provides the right stimulus at the right time, by the time the child is six years old you will see an independent thinker emerging. So the focus is the environment. We have a set of materials that we use and, working with this equipment, children approach reading and writing on their own. The other important principle we follow is to have a mixed age group in a class – 2 ½ to 6 years old together in the same environment. If you look at adult life, you don’t find segregation of ages anywhere – we do it only to children because it is convenient for us to teach and reach our goals. But the pivot of the Montessori philosophy is the goals that the child is trying to reach. So over the period of three to four years that the child is in the environment, she has real experiences – of not getting what she wants when she wants it, of finding support when she is upset from the older children, etc. The older children too derive self-esteem from looking after the younger ones. So school is not just about reading and writing; it’s about the formation of character. Also, each child learns at her own pace, according to her own interests. At the end of it, you have very strong individuals emerging.