Above the fray of the education reform debate—and for a very long time—students have been graduating from Montessori schools with the very skills that researchers now recognize as “21st century skills.”
Maria Montessori was clearly ahead of her time, and her core principles—that effective learning is self-directed and calls for the development of the whole person—are shaping a generation uniquely prepared for our fast-changing world. Indeed, many of today's innovators credit their Montessori education as a major factor in their success. (Read more in this Wall Street Journal article.)
The past several decades have seen industries transformed. Nearly every sector in America has innovated in ways nearly unimaginable a generation ago.
One sector, however, has remained nearly the same as it was a century ago: Education.
The factory-model of education developed during the industrial revolution created schools that process students in batches. By instituting grades and having a teacher focus on just one set of students of the same age, the theory went, teachers could teach the same subjects in the same way and at the same pace to all children in the classroom.
Everyone knows that not all kids learn at the same pace in the same way at the same age. And yet, our educational system remains essentially the same as it was at the beginning of the 20th century.
Our nation's educational system is still focused on teaching and testing rote skills which offer little value for today’s complex world. Programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top promote outcomes that are the opposite of the talents needed for today. The world doesn't need more test takers. What is needed and valued is critical thinking and problem solving, self-direction and leadership, creativity and innovation, teamwork and collaboration, a global orientation and respect for others and the world. The root of the problem is that our educational system was built for a disappearing era. It's not possible to patch a system that is flawed in its fundamental design.
Montessori is not an adaptation of traditional methods, it’s a completely different way of teaching and learning. 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 conventionally educated peers, we believe it's their demonstrably better life skills that best prepare our young people for a complex and fast-changing world.
Read more about the Montessori difference.