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Why is Montessori not more widespread (in India)?

posted Jun 27, 2014, 6:24 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Aug 22, 2015, 9:08 AM ]
Most parents start as sceptics when introduced to the Montessori methods for the first time, including the Directress of Vismaya Montessori. But once they see how happy their toddlers are, how eager they are to go to "school", how well coordinated and intentional their actions are, how concerned they are for others, and so many more positive changes in their children, including an improved reading, writing and maths skills by the end of the pre-primary stage, these same parents are advocates of the Montessori methods.

And thus comes a question familiar to most Montessorians in India, but not easily answered: Why is Montessori not more widespread?

It is a genuine question given the wide availability of public schools in most urban and semi-urban areas, typically where most of the Montessori Houses of Children are present today. And yet these modern schools are so limited, and sometimes detrimental to the development of the child. The "leading" schools of the Metros are so intent on the marks that their students can get that it is not uncommon for parents to get a call from these schools to give them a notice period within which their 5-6 year old child must improve their "spellings".

Modern schools are an outcome of the authoritarian high modernism, a type of thinking that goes like this:
  • Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
  • Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
  • Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
  • Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
  • Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
  • Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
  • Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly
Authoritarian High Modernism
This is the kind of thinking that lead to forests being replaced with plantations. These monocultures have destroyed not only the biodiversity but also have caused huge damage to the planet.

Something similar is the case with how children learn and how government views it. Education officers do not usually get the beauty of a Montessori House of Children.

Because it is difficult to comprehend the complexity of thirty different children each doing their own thing, schools "discipline" children into following what the teacher instructs.

Because it is difficult to comprehend the level or developmental stage each child is at, schools have narrower age based groupings in classes rather than have mixed age groups or vertical grouping.

Because it is difficult to comprehend the interconnectedness of nature and society, let alone teach about them, schools follow different subjects rather than themes that cut across all the disciplines.

But not so in a Montessori environment. And because these Montessori houses of children are organic, no two environment are the same and a LOT depends upon the adult in the environment too, though it is the children who shape the House.

Montessori framework is more closer to what we used to have for more than a million years before we discovered agriculture than what we have had since the early nineteenth century after the British enforced the colonial education system, which unfortunately continues in India till date. Thanks to the authoritarian high modernism thinking.

Read how the hunter gatherer societies let their children teach themselves, in a very Montessori-ish manner if I may say so:
http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200808/children-educate-themselves-iii-the-wisdom-hunter-gatherers

But the Tamil Nadu government realised the mistake and thus, a decade back, incorporated many of the principles from the Rishi Valley School and the Montessori framework, with the help of veteran Montessorians like Amukta Mahapatra, and came up with the Activity Based Learning program in the state government schools after a successful pilot in the Chennai corporation schools.

Do you think that the education system in India should be revolutionized? Should we focus on the policy, process & technology or the needs of the child's developmental stage? Do you think Montessori principles should get more attention and focus?

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