Pre-school non-education vs Montessori education

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Wed, 2009-08-05 04:38

Over the weekend The Herald reported the abject failure of state-sponsored early childhood education.

Many 5-year-olds are starting school unable to count or complete the alphabet, despite years of pre-school education. . .

Rosemary Vivien, head of Edendale School in Sandringham, Auckland, said the Ministry of Education had outlined general expectations of what children should know when they started school. These included being able to count to 20, knowing the alphabet, recognising colours and being able to write their own name.
More than half the children who started at Edendale, a decile 5 school, could not do that. . .

Grotesque news, when you think about it, to which David Farrar commented that

I have said many many times I would take money from tertiary education and stick it into pre-school or early childhood education,

and talked about his niece who “turned five late last year and could proudly count to 100 and back – both in English and Maori. I sort of assumed that counting to 100 was pretty standard for pre-school. Certainly counting to 20 should have occurred.” It certainly should, but even that’s hardly stretching anybody.

I responded at Kiwiblog that both Mr Farrar and the Ministry have their sights sets pretty low – and it’s almost tragic that even the Ministry’s low standards are not being met. In good Montessori schools however, I pointed out,

CLICK HERE FOR A MONTESSORI LECTURE YOU MUSTN'T MISS!! six year olds are counting and understanding the concept of one million, doing long division and binomial equations, and reading and writing their own short stories.
These are not exceptional students, these are normal students. And
these results are well documented.
The answer is not more money “stuck” into into government-sponsored pre-school or early childhood education programmes. These programmes are the problem. And neither is the answer more forced retraining for ECE teachers or more free hours — and it’s certainly not more power to the Ministry of Ed — it’s simply to get the hell out of the way of the better schools and the local Montessori teacher training centres.
Montessori schools and the better mainstream ECE shools have been shafted by govt policies and extra govt spending over the last decade-and-a-half; what they need now is less interference and govt spending, not more.

Like I said, when you can see what children can achieve at good Montessori schools, too see what passes even for success in mainstream schools is heart breaking. And it’s important to realise that the results I cite above – such as counting and understanding the concept of one million, doing long division and binomial equations, and reading and writing their own short stories – are achieved by pushing Montessori children into achieving those sort of results. But far from it — it’s the kids who are pushed who generally don’t achieve. As I went on to say at Kiwiblog:

The results are achieved, paradoxically you might say, not by pushing them but by letting them be kids; by recognising what they’re thirsty for at each stage of their development, and making sure that’s what’s in front of them when they’re eager for it.
Of course, this is just a very small part of the reason for the success of Montessori education, but an important one: the recognition of what Dr Montessori called “
sensitive periods for learning.”
Rather than dumbing children down and treating them as morons, as mainstream education does, Montessori treats them as young people with brains which they want to train themselves, and offers them the means by which to do that.

Steven_Hughes Now it’s often thought that what good Montessori schools do for children is some sort of miracle. but that’s just not true. It’s not a miracle; it’s simply good science. Montessori education works because, as a forthcoming visitor to New Zealand points out, “Montessori education parallels what is known about brain development.”

Dr Steven Hughes is a neurologist and paediatrician who fell in love with what Montessori education can do when he sent his own children to Montessori school, and quickly realised what was going on in front of his eyes at school mirrored what he was seeing in his own scientific research on brain development.

Hughes is an assistant professor of paediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the USA and will be visiting Auckland soon after a speaking tour of all major Australian cities – and I’d highly recommend going along and hearing what he has to say. Everyone I know who’s seen him talk before says he’s outstanding. From the ad for the Auckland public lecture on September 18 at AUT’s Northcote campus.

This public lecture will help you gain unique insights into how Montessori education provides children with an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success.
In this highly visual, rapid-paced and entertaining talk, Dr Hughes will share how Montessori education parallels what is known about brain development and how Montessori fosters the development of advanced cognitive functions, social cognition, and such higher-order competencies as empathy and leadership.
He will show how and why Montessori kids are ‘good at doing things’.
This talk is especially great for fathers who may wonder about this ‘Montessori-thing’!

You can get a ticket to this event from your local Montessori centres or schools or by emailing, or freephone 0800336612. But be quick. The Montessori Association of NZ has kept the cost low at only $10 per person for early-bird bookers, which deadline runs out soon. Visit the MANZ website for more information.