With more schools sprouting all over the island, that offer the Montessori way of teaching, parents are easily crossing bridges over the distance to enrol their children in a Montessori educational facility.
The Montessori Method of teaching and learning has become the object of mass interest among Singapore parents in the last decade. With more schools sprouting all over the island, that offer the Montessori way of teaching, parents are easily crossing bridges over the distance to enroll their children in a Montessori educational facility.
Italian educationalist, Maria Montessori, Photograph courtesy of Bain News Service
It all began when Italian educator, Maria Montessori, began a school in Rome in 1907 for children with her own teaching methods. Although Italian politician Benito Mussolini was not a fan of Maria and her teachings, her methods started to spark an interest among people and soon began to spread all over the world. With a visit to India in 1939 by Maria and her son, more centres began opening in Asia.
The foundation of the Montessori approach is the acceptance that children develop and think differently and to guide this development is how the Montessori Method assists. Activities, skills and ‘hands on’ play are adopted to further steer a child into developing his/her full potential self. The Montessori Method emphasises greatly upon a child’s environment and the relationship it shares with the child’s development.
Keeping the Faith
One such school that has adopted the Montessori Method is Faith Montessori which has three campuses located at Bukit Timah, Holland and Hillview. Principal duties are shared between Ms. Jiner Ong and Ms. Mabel Chung. Both are trained in the Montessori approach and take a keen interest in each and every pupil enrolled.
A visit to the Bukit Timah campus proved to be an encounter with ample space for outdoor activities, teachers establishing good relationships with the students and extremely delighted children who appeared to be nestling every moment spent at the centre.
Faith Montessori Classroom
Faith Montessori cultivates a child’s development in 5 areas – practical, language, cultural, sensorial and math. Teachers also silently encourage the children to make their own mistake and use that as a method of teaching them the right way. In doing so, the teachers guide the children in knowing the philosophy behind the correct way of doing something and therefore understanding it. A social aspect that Faith Montessori places emphasis on is sharing. Sharing is a necessity in a child’s character and such is a belief that Faith Montessori holds onto deeply. Many activities are dedicated to plunging the children into the act of sharing. Teachers do not force it upon the children but instead lead by example.
Teachers are interviewed and all are trained in the Montessori Method. To Ms. Ong and Ms. Chung, age is not a criteria for them “We have 50 year old teachers with the spunk of 20 and 30 year olds,” says Ms. Chung with a twinkle in her eye. “We don’t turn away teachers based on their age. We actually have a variety of ages among the teachers with some as young as 20 years old,” smiles Ms. Ong. The teacher - student ratio is 1:5 for the toddler class and 1:10 for the nursery level.
With new age parents becoming more academic focused, Faith Montessori faces the challenge of devising the curriculum to suit high academic expectations at the beginning of each new semester. However the two principals are confident of their play based approach. “When parents see the children settling into a routine that is more play based and learning more that way, they (the parents) become more comfortable with our methods. We don’t force them onto the parents too fast but we introduce them to the methods gradually,” explains Ms. Chung.
Play is just as important!
The school not only accepts children ranging from toddlers to kindergarteners but also children of that age who have special needs. Currently enrolled is an autistic boy who goes through the same system. “We do not turn away any child. We try to help them as much as we can,” remarks Ms. Ong. Faith Montessori goes the same route as most preschools when it comes to language teaching. Mandarin and English are taught concurrently. However the languages are taught in an extremely interactive manner. Homework is doled out but in small quantities.
Maria Montessori may have started her teaching methods in the 20th century but slight retouches and occasional revamps have been conducted throughout the time that has followed to suit the abilities and levels of understanding in today’s children. Through the children’s wide smiles, Faith Montessori proudly boasts of high levels of comfort within the children.