As we cautiously move towards a post-pandemic normal and from experience of COVID-19 protocols, there is an ever increasing call for educational reform with elements of Montessori pedagogy leading the way in many forward thinking schools.
The now well established 21st Century skills, have always been very much entwined in Montessori pedagogy; child (not teacher) centred learning, multiage groupings and 3 year cycles, intrinsic motivation and self directed learning, classrooms as communities, uninterrupted work times that support executive function skills and global awareness and
As we entered the new millennial 21 years ago, there was a great deal of hope and expectation that with this, there would be a growing global change on subjects varying from climate change to world population growth to the globalisation of economics. The Industrial Age was generally agreed to have become a dinosaur lumbering towards extinction and being replaced by a new Information Age. This new framework would be an era in which ideas, creativeness and data offered more promising life prospects than assembly lines and the production of consumer goods which had been the norm for the past 100 years.
In educational circles, the big question was (and unfortunately still is), what future children will face and how best can can we prepare them for this big unknown.
Educational institutions change slowly and are highly resistant to deep change with continuing focus on academic qualifications. Whilst there have been attempts to modernise educational programmes, there has been little change in the subject matter which is expected to be retained and memorised by students with ever increasing pressure to test and grade relentlessly under the premise that the only knowledge that is worth gaining is that needed to obtain a paper qualification.
Since the coming of the Information Age, there has been serious discussion among educators, corporate executives, government leaders and entrepreneurs regarding the skills, knowledge and expertise today's students will need in order to succeed in their future lives. This complex set of competencies termed '21st Century skills', include not only knowledge in core subjects but also technological prowess, environmental literacy, cross-cultural communications skills and the ability to solve complex problems, think creatively and work collaboratively. Children, future citizens of the world, will need to think across disciplines, reach across cultures and embrace new knowledge at every stage of their lives.
If traditional schools wish to prepare children for their futures (rather than the lives their parents and grandparents faced), they will need to dramatically re-tool curricula and pedagogy and re-frame priorities. To achieve the desired results, discrete strands of curriculum (45 minutes of math, 30 minutes of science, etc.) must now be thoughtfully interconnected and incorporate personalised, independent and collaborative learning; age-specific grade levels must become communities of learners; rote memorisation must give way to the use of knowledge to solve real-world problems; competition for grades and prizes must shift to collaboration with classmates; learning must become student centred and driven by inquiry rather than imposed by textbooks; and the role of the teacher must become that of skilled coach and guide rather than central knower and dispenser of information. The student, or child, becomes central to the process and an active co-constructor of knowledge rather than a passive vessel waiting to be filled.
The above has been at the core of Montessori pedagogy for the past 150 years and whilst it is accepted there is some need to modernise and adapt to enable this to be fully aligned with today's world, there is absolutely no doubt this will become a benchmark for schools to follow if children are to be fully prepared for their future lives.
Mont21 is one of a growing number of innovative and pioneering schools promoting 21st Century education that will eventually become integrated into mainstream education for the benefit of all children in tomorrow's world.
For further details, visit www.mont21school.org