Once considered an educational experiment, Montessori has become the blueprint for a new approach to learning—one that’s demonstrating long-term success in both private and public U.S. schools. Montessori’s core tenets, that effective learning is self-directed and that education calls for development of the whole person, are shaping a generation uniquely prepared for the demands of the 21st century.
Time Magazine, covering an influential 2007 report on the American workforce, puts it bluntly:
"As Americans worry about whether some fraction of our children get ‘left behind’... an entire generation of kids [is failing] to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad, or speak a language other than English."
And why? According to the report, our educational system is still focused on teaching skills in a world where skills quickly become outdated, automated or offshored-for-less. Value now lies in creativity and innovation, life literacy, global orientation, and cross-cultural abilities. The study concludes, "The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era. ...It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system."
And so it is not.
Montessori is not an adaptation of traditional methods, it’s a completely different way of teaching and learning. Many of its core ideas correspond directly to recommendations in this and other studies. It’s an approach that acknowledges it is how—and not what—we learn that most shapes the developing personality. While independent studies show that Montessori students perform academically as well or better than more traditionally educated peers, we believe it’s their demonstrably better life skills that best prepare our young people for a complex and fast-changing world.
About Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. She was a math prodigy, a physicist, an anthropologist. At 24 she was the first woman to graduate from the medical school in Rome. She was a pragmatist and a visionary and a humanitarian; a friend of Gandhi’s and Thomas Edison’s; a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Her face is on Italy’s 1,000 lire bill. Today, we know Maria Montessori best for the educational method that bears her name.
Maria Montessori came to education in a roundabout way. She was a doctor in a Rome psychiatric clinic, her wards were children from orphanages and asylums across the city. She saw her young patients first and foremost as human beings, and searched for ways to help improve their mental and spiritual (as well as physical) health. In trying to reach their minds, she made discoveries so fascinating that she left her medical practice to focus on learning more. She applied what she learned, testing and refining her ideas throughout the rest of her long life.
Maria Montessori was interested in the end-result of education, not its method. She cared about developing “a complete human being, oriented to the environment and adapted to his or her time, place and culture.” She came to her work with no preconceived ideas about how young people should be taught. She simply observed them, gathering evidence about how their minds worked and formulating tools that responded to their needs. Her observations contained groundbreaking insights into human development and cognition—insights that are largely upheld by research today. They also contain luminous descriptions of the potentialities of children in the tender process of self-formation. Perhaps most moving: the picture her writings paint of a world made better by the way we adults touch those unfolding personalities.
Founded by Dr. Montessori herself in 1929, AMI, the Association Montessori Internationale, is the most diligent of the various Montessori organizations in ensuring that Montessori schools and teachers are both well-grounded in the basic principles of the method and ready to carry those principles forward in the modern educational world.
Montessori is a complex approach to human development, from birth to maturity, based upon universal principles. It is international in that, when done in an exacting manner, it can be used with children of all nationalities with the same results. Courses are thorough and require intense study. Lectures, seminars, the preparation of materials and curriculum texts, observation, and practice teaching are all carried out under supervision.
The AMI diploma is universally recognized for the quality and authenticity of the training given.