[Editor’s Note: To meet schools featured in the School Choice Guide, register for the free Beijing International School Expo, where you can save time, energy, and money in you school comparisons. Scan the QR code below.]
Founded by Dr. Maria Montessori (1870- 1952) the Montessori motto is “Help me do it by myself.” This approach is founded on the belief that every child should be respected as an individual and allowed to learn at their own pace within the prepared environment of a classroom. The Montessori philosophy acknowledges that a child’s curiosity and interest fuel their drive toward competence, allowing them to learn and progress at their own pace.
Though there are several Montessori societies worldwide, the term “Montessori” itself is not trademarked. That’s why it is crucial for parents to interview and visit prospective schools. The more prominent societies, like the American Montessori Society (AMS), formulate their own standards and accredit schools.
What’s unique about the curriculum?
Montessori education respects the child’s nature in their growth process and creates a child-centered learning environment to help the child to fully reach his potential in order to develop in an all-around way. Montessori education places emphasis on the child’s independence, creativity, and problem solving skills.
How is it applied?
Globally, the age of Montessori students varies widely from infancy to adulthood (0-18 years). The majority of schools in Beijing tend to focus on early childhood education (such as Etonkids and Children’s House), but MSB offers Montessori-style education for kids up to age 12.
Montessori education features are:
1. Mixed-age teaching.
2. Montessori five classroom areas: practice life, sensorial, math, language, and culture.
3. Prepared learning environment focused on the child, including the physical environment and spiritual environment.
4. Respecting the child’s individual differences, and making an individual teaching and development plan according to the development level of each child.
5. The roles of teachers: inductors, supporters, and collaborators.
Montessori teachers guide their students. There are no assessments or grading systems; progress is tracked through observation, record-keeping, and self-reflection. There is also no such thing as failure since teachers present each child with a choice of tasks and a variety of difficulties. Kids progress from simple to complex tasks, all while fulfilling their natural curiosity.
Why should parents consider it?
Education experts agree that the most important period in a child’s development is between infancy and age 6. Dr. Montessori believed that kids at this age had an “absorbent” quality, like a sponge. The idea is that proper guidance and stimulation will allow them to form patterns for the rest of their lives.
How well does this education system prepare students for the real world?
As self-directed learners, Montessori students gain transferrable skills that can be used throughout their lives. The core values are independence, self-esteem, and cooperation. Many Montessori schools in Beijing use a combination of educational approaches.
Where is it offered?
Etonkids Kindergartens (15 campuses in Beijing), International Montessori School of Beijing (MSB)
Curriculum Spotlight: Tom Zhang, 38, American-Born Chinese father of a four-year-old boy in Etonkids’ Baoxing, Beijing Campus
What is unique about the curriculum?
“Something that I think is unique about the curriculum is that my son gets a chance to learn English and Chinese at the same time. Growing up in a bilingual atmosphere is something that is very important to my wife and me.”
What was the most interesting project you completed this year?
“One of the most interesting projects that I have done this year with my child was the tree that we created together. My son’s teacher gave him a project where he needed to research two kinds of trees. Then he had to choose which tree he liked the most and made an artistic creation based on the tree. My son drew a picture of the tree and then used his hand prints to represent the leaves of the tree. It is still hanging up in our home to this day.”
What are the challenges?
“One challenge that I have found with Etonkids is deciding which programs to enroll my son into. The school offers so many that he is interested in. Sometimes it can be a difficult decision, especially if he sees one of these other classes being conducted with his own two eyes.”
This article originally appeared on page 11 of the 2017 issue of beijingkids School Choice Guide. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Courtesy of Etonkids