A Philosophy in her name: Maria Montessori

What is Montessori Method? It is an educational philosophy developed for elementary school children according to which children were taught by including activities of practical play and encouraged to learn on their own. Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Italy. Her father was an official in the Ministry of Finance and mother was great-niece of Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani. Her father was against her decision to continue her studies yet she went ahead and studied medicine under the University of Rome. Her academic choices were unconventional for her time and were met with criticism. Along with medicine, she had also studied philosophy. In her time, philosophy included pretty much of what constitutes today’s psychology.220px-Maria_Montessori1913

Montessori graduated in 1896 as a doctor of medicine. She began her career working with children having some form of mental retardation, illness or disability. She later went ahead and pursued further studies and from 1906, her philosophy began to develop as a series of experiments conducted on children. In that year, she was invited to oversee the education of a group of children of working parents. She began her experiments by equipping the classroom with furniture suitable for children, a stove, teacher’s table and blackboard. Teaching involved practical activities and she noticed episodes of deep attention. With time she noted that the children developed a sense of discipline. She felt that by letting children work independently, they could develop a new level of autonomy and also develop a new level of understanding.

The success of her experiment gained her attention from prominent educators and public figures. She then began experimenting with teaching materials by cutting out letters from sandpaper and mounting them on boards, and using movable letters and picture cards. The new subjects showed more proficiency far greater than what was expected in reading and writing. Her methods grew popular in subsequent years and spread to almost every country, including India. Rabindranath Tagore founded many Tagore-Montessori schools in India where they were very popular. Montessori carried on with her teacher training programmes and gave lectures in various universities and conferences. She also received several honorary degrees and was nominated for Nobel Prize. Maria Montessori continued her work and died at the age of 81 in 1952. Her immense personality and philosophy has brought about a tremendous change in the world of education and continues to influence teaching methods till this day.

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