Maria MontessoriWhen it comes to preschools in India, the term Montessori is loosely and erroneously used to describe all nursery schools. What is not widely known is that Montessori is actually a method of teaching and a Montessori school differs greatly from a conventional school. It is also the most popular approach of teaching in preschools in the western world.

Montessori education derives from the work of educationist Maria Montessori, who discovered that children learn from their environment and relatively little from listening to a teacher in class. The Montessori Method of teaching helps the child identify and develop their interest in their own way and at their own pace. The Montessori ethos is that a child is an individual who has been born with a true nature. It is the teacher’s job to help reveal this nature and ensure that they utilise their full potential, in a joyful manner.

Maria Montessori demonstrated that all children are capable of learning the things that they need to know. By getting to know the children whom she was teaching (by constant observation of the child), she understood what they needed and went on to create an environment in which they could learn about those things for themselves. The principle legacy that she has left for today’s parents and teachers is the idea that all children are capable of achieving great things when simply given what they need.

In a nutshell, the Montessori approach to education is child centered and based on mutual respect and co-operation. The teacher in a Montessori Classroom is more of a guide and facilitator, respecting the concentration and varied learning approaches of each child in the classroom.

“I studied the children and they taught me how to teach them.”  Dr Maria Montessori

To understand further how the Montessori approach differs from traditional please look at the table below:

Montessori Traditional
The Classroom
(known as the Prepared Environment)
Mixed age setting: This enables the older children to take pride in helping the younger ones, and in turn consolidate their own knowledge. This also benefits the young ones as they learn faster by observing and learning from the older children Same age setting
Environment and method encourage internal self discipline Teacher acts as primary enforcer of external discipline
Materials specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of the child Fewer materials and visual aids are used for teaching
Setup specifically for them and to meet their needs; safe, stimulating, have freedom to work as they wish. All child size material and furniture. Is a workspace designed for traditional teaching but will not cater for the child’s individual needs
No competition: As the children are at different stages of learning and pursuing a variety of activities there is no competitive pressure. Competition may help someone try a little harder, however the Montessori child will always strive for self-improvement and give his best regardless of competition. Is generally a competitive environment where children are given marks relative to other children’s abilities
The Child The child is given freedom to choose his/her own work: Once the teacher has presented an activity, the child is free to choose this activity whenever the child wants and repeat it until he/she has mastered it, spending as long as they need on it. Curriculum structured for child with little regard of child’s interest
Concepts: Formulates his/her own from self-teaching materials Is guided to concepts by teacher
Time: Works as long as he/she wishes on chosen project Generally given specific time limit for work
The child can work at his/her own pace: If a child is stronger at mathematics and weaker in language, the Montessori method allows him/her to put more time and effort into language. In a Montessori classroom, it is rare to see two children doing exactly the same activity at the same time unless it is a group activity. Instruction pace usually set by group norm or teacher
Spots own errors through feedback from the material If work is corrected, errors usually are pointed out by teacher
Encouraged to teach, collaborate and help each other Most teaching is done by the teacher
Learning is reinforced internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success Learning is reinforced externally by repetition and rewards/discouragements
The Teacher
(known as the Directress)
Has passive role in classroom activity. Has a dominant, active role in classroom activity. The child is a passive participant in learning.
Adapts to each child’s learning style Imposes her teaching style on the children
Individual attention to the child on a daily basis: The role of the teacher is to observe and record how the child is progressing in daily activities and ensure that at least one new activity is presented each day, to maintain the child’s progress Teaching is class based and therefore less individual attention can be given
Accurate awareness of the stage of learning that the child is at. Through observing and recording the child’s progress, the teacher is able to understand the child’s difficulties/strengths and give them exactly what they need on an individual basis. Has less awareness of the stage of learning the child is at

Please have a look at this video which gives a great insight on what Montessori offers over conventional teaching.