Singapore's first Asian conference on early childhood

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More than 200 parents, preschool teachers and operators as well as education officials from Singapore and the region converged at the very first Asian Montessori Annual Lecture on Early Childhood Education, held at NUSS Guild House, Kent Ridge on September 1st, 2012.

shutterstock 31542778 1 Singapore's first Asian conference on early childhoodCalled "The Relevance & Effectiveness of Montessori Education In the 21st Century", the conference is timely in the wake of mounting parents’ concerns on the standard of preschool education and quality of preschool teachers in Singapore. The participants were there to discover more on what made the Montessori teaching method tick from global early childhood education gurus.

Organised by Modern Montessori International (MMI), a global brandname in early childhood education and one of Asia’s leading preschool education providers, the maiden Annual Lecture was declared open by former Singapore president Mr S.R. Nathan, a passionate supporter of quality education for the young.

Mr Nathan said, “Today, more emphasis is placed on holistic learning as a bedrock for academic excellence and success and as a stepping stone towards cultivating a positive self-image, character building and developing important life skills. The basic Montessori philosophy that every child is unique and possesses an innate desire to learn and produce purposeful, meaningful work, still holds true.”

Dr T. Chandroo, Executive Chairman and CEO of MMI said,"The lecture reinforces MMI’s leading position in the early childhood education industry in Singapore. It also aims to help parents and educators understand global trends in early childhood education and to appreciate the Montessori methodology of teaching pre-schoolers so that they can fully realize n their potential as they progress through life."

“Founded 105 years ago, Montessori education continues to play a vital role today. This unique and effective educational approach is now practised in over 20,000 schools worldwide. Global gurus practitioners and parents have gathered here today from different countries to share and discuss ideas, knowledge and experiences.”.

List of speakers

This lecture has lined up an outstanding cast of global early childhood education gurus such as:

- Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Winfried Böhm (Germany), an expert in Montessori`s scientific concept of education and the integration of culture in early childhood learning.

- Ms Wendy Barbara Fidler (London), Forensic Education Consultant, Montessori Special Education Consultant.

- Ms Marianne Bourke (London), Modern Montessori College Manager.

- Mr Michael Phillips (Singapore), Deputy Head of the Modern Montessori, Academic Department.
The speakers focused on several critical topics covering the relevance and effectiveness of Montessori Education and the special needs of children in the 21st Century.

Unique strengths of the Montessori Education

On the uniqueness of Montessori education, Dr. Gudula Meisterjahn-Knebel, President of Montessori Europe, said,” It provides a child-centred education with the aim of helping the child to do things for themselves. This kind of education guarantees the child the freedom they need to explore. The child is free to choose their own learning tools, and to determine when, where, how long and with whom he or she works.”. He also added, “Of course, inner self-discipline is expected of the children. The task of the teacher is to observe the child and prepare the environment geared to the needs of each individual. All-in-all the individual child's development is at the centre of Montessori education.”. Dr. Meisterjahn-Knebel also stated that, "The time-tested Montessori approach has proven to be effective in forging value-based learning and social responsibility. The Montessori pedagogy allows for maximum individuality while demanding responsibility for the community. “

Fascinating concept of Cosmic Education for young children

MMI also unveiled an exclusive Montessori teaching concept at the conference – known as Cosmic education, which is to inspire young children to learn through connectivity and rhythm. Cosmic education shows students how everything in the universe is interrelated and interdependent. It seeks to offer the young the stimulation and help they need to develop their minds, their vision and their creative power. Prof. Winfried Böhm explained, "Cosmic education differs from traditional education as it goes far beyond just the acquisition of knowledge and developmental growth to encompass the development of a whole person. Children who receive Cosmic education in childhood are better prepared to enter adolescence as independent, confident,
responsible, emotionally intelligent individuals, balanced in physical, intellectual and social achievements. They are also prepared to make responsible decisions and act on them in a responsible way; to recognize limits and give, ask for, and receive help, as needed.”.

Helping children with special needs

One of the cornerstones of Montessori education is the focus on diversity of competencies/ capabilities of children. In line with this, Montessori’s early childhood education has developed strategies and tactical ways to help children with special needs such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.

This annual Montessori lecture has included a special workshop for parents to understand the issues facing children with these special needs and how best to help them realize their fullest potential. There are also ‘fun based learning’ workshops teaching participants on how children can learn through music, speech and drama. The musical and movement workshop is presented in the Montessori style with new and original songs written and recorded by Mr Michael Phillips.

Global teacher training programmes to develop more preschool teaching talent

Turning to the supply crunch for good qualified preschool teachers in Singapore, Dr Chandroo said, “The challenge facing the preschool industry has always be the difficulty in recruiting well-qualified teachers. Hence MMI established its very own teacher training academy in 1989 to specially train teachers. It offers Diploma in Montessori Method, Diploma in Early Childhood Care & Education and Bachelor (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies (Middlesex University, U.K.). By doing so, MMI ensures that its teaching staff meets global standards in preschool teaching and adopts best global practices in early childhood education."

This annual lecture is the first in a series that MMI plans to organize in Asia. Abbott Laboratories, a global, broad-based health care company that supports the healthy development of children, is the gift sponsor for this maiden Annual Asian Montessori lecture.

About Modern Montessori International Group (MMI)

Established in 1989, Modern Montessori International is the master franchisee of Modern Montessori International (London) for the whole of Asia-Pacific region. MMI specializes in the use of Modern Montessori Methodology in both Montessori teacher training as well as the establishment of Montessori pre-school centres. MMI has expanded its operations in Singapore and ventured into 13 other countries like:  Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, China, Egypt, UAE, Kenya, and Nigeria. Currently, we have 30 preschools and teacher training centres in Singapore. The MMI Group has currently has close to 100 preschools and teacher training centres worldwide.