The Aims and Philosophy of Montessori Pre-Primary Education

The Montessori approach assists in feeding the child’s developing skills and interests at the most opportune time of mental development, and helps such children to attain capability and self-control. The method used is precise and orderly: it was developed and perfected, after many years of empirical research, by an Italian scientist, Dr. Maria Montessori, who was the first woman doctor in Rome.


The Montessori philosophy aims at providing the right type of mental stimulation that will ground a young child with the reality of its environment. Such children are provided with as much information as can be easily absorbed, and which relates to the real world within their direct experience, while they are still at an age when fact can easily be confused with fantasy.


For Montessori, the goal of early childhood education is not to fill the child with facts from pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate the natural desire to learn. In the Montessori classroom this objective is approached in two ways: firstly by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by exercising his/her own freedom of choice, and secondly by helping to perfect the natural tools for learning, so that ability will be maximised in future situations.


In order to learn there must be mental concentration, and the best way a child can attain this is by fixing attention on some task being manually performed. All equipment in a Montessori classroom allows the child to reinforce initial casual impressions by encouraging the use of hands for learning. Montessori is a unique cycle of learning designed to take advantage of the child’s sensitive years, especially between three and six, when information can be readily absorbed from an enriched environment prepared with attractive materials. These materials are arranged on low shelves within easy reach of even the smallest learner.


Dr. Montessori believed that self-discipline should be acquired gradually through absorption in meaningful work. The mixed age groups evident only in a Montessori classroom, having children ages three to six together, thus permits the younger children a graded series of models for imitation and the older ones an opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by helping the younger ones. In Montessori we believe that competition in education should be introduced only after the child has gained the confidence in the use of basic skill. Maria Montessori wrote “Never let a child risk a failure, until he has a reasonable chance of success”. The use of individual materials allows a varied pace that accommodates many levels of ability in the classroom.


A younger or slower child may work for many weeks on the same piece of equipment without retarding the other members of the class. Advanced children in the same class have the freedom to move from one piece of equipment to another relatively quickly, thus avoiding the boredom of waiting for other members of the class to catch up.


Children with a high level of ability are constantly challenged by the wide variety of materials and their many uses. It has been established that Pre-School children mature at very different rates and their periods of readiness for academic subjects vary a great deal. Montessori children begin to read and calculate at an unusually early age, because interest is continuously stimulated, and materials are at hand whenever a child is ready.


The Montessori Method balances freedom with responsibility in the classroom and also sets high standards of intellectual and social development for children. Equally important, it encompasses a vision of the development of human beings from childhood to early adulthood. As a result, it is a logical and consistent plan of education that follows the child from one developmental stage to the next. In a Montessori classroom, the indirect preparation (in both Language and Math) that takes place when the child is three years of age makes it possible for a five year old to begin to read and write spontaneously and to complete mathematical problems, such as addition, multiplication, subtraction and division, with an understanding of the decimal system. This unusually high level of development is attained through a process of exploration and discovery with concrete, hands-on material.


A child who acquires the basic skills literacy and numeracy in a natural way has the advantage of beginning its education without drudgery, boredom or discouragement. By pursuing individual interests in the Montessori classroom, early enthusiasm for learning is gained. The adult in the environment acts as a link to the environment for the child. They do not ‘teach’ the child in the usual sense. They observe the children in order to discover their needs and interests based on their stage in self formation and their individual personalities. They then attempt to present those materials or activities to the children that match their developmental needs. It is in the children’s subsequent independent use of these materials and activities that learning takes place. It is this freedom that allows the child’s self-formation.


Freedom here does not mean doing whatever they want. Allowing children such latitude is to condemn them to the mercy of their own whims and desires of the moment. These invariably are often destructive to the child itself, to those around and to the environment. To be free means to be in control of oneself, to be able to do what one chooses to do, not what one’s feeling or illogical thoughts of the moment may dictate.


One of Montessori’s key concepts is the idea that the children are driven by their own desire to become independent and competent beings in the world. They wish to learn and master new skills. For this reason, extrinsic rewards are unnecessary. Work is its own reward. In the process of making independent choices and exploring concepts largely on their own, Montessori children construct their own sense of self and right and wrong.