Further reflections have followed after my last blog post, Formation or Education? That is the question, on the different educational systems in Italy and America. I remember the time when 2 years ago I had to choose the school for my sons before moving to America.
During my research, I found so many well-advertised Montessori private schools in the suburban Philadelphia area. I was impressed. Maria Montessori, the Italian educator, physician and philosopher, the old woman represented on the Italian 1000 Lire banknotes, that woman had such a great impact on the American educational system and so little on the Italian one. Still I am trying to figure it out what went wrong and why we have not become the excellence in the educational system worldwide.
It is a fact, indeed, that Montessori schools are not popular in Italy. The following, is a passage taken from Tripadvisor – the blog – of an American mother and daughter that wanted to visit one of the “real” Montessori schools in Italy during their vacation. This is the reply:
“There is a pre-elementary school for children 3-5, then an elementary school for ages 6-11. They’re not run on Montessori principles. Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, province of Ancona (the province where I live). Nonetheless, I don’t know any family that sends their children to a Montessori school. I don’t think it will be easy to find a Montessori school where English is routinely spoken, unless maybe there’s one in Rome for foreigners”
How sad is that!!
So, this is a list of what the Italian schools are missing out.
- THE MONTESSORI CLASSROOM DESIGN
Each classroom has a teacher’s desk with a lamp, a carpet where children takes their shoes off and make the morning meetings, no rows of desks but groups of two or four desks (usually 2 girls and 2 boys) to work in a team. Books are kept in school in organized (sometimes) spaces under their desks. The classroom is equipped with bookshelves and everything is accessible to children.
- THE STUDENT’S CHOICE OF ACTIVITY
Children can work independently on their own projects, within a larger activity. For example, if it is reading time, everyone will be reading a different book, the one he/she had picked from the school or classroom library.
- THE DISCOVERY MODEL
You learn by doing. How obvious is that? So, if you are studying the ecosystem, you need empty plastic bottles, some dirt, plants, water and some poor fishes (I still have some concerns in using…err killing live animals though). And observation. The lesson is learned.
- LEARNING MATERIAL
Who says that you learn only from books? Books are just one of the possibilities. You can count with pebbles, measure with pencils, learn vocabulary with flash cards. Everything that is visual and tangible will help you to remember better.
- THE MONTESSORI MAFIA OF INNOVATORS
If there is something that Italy does not need is the Mafia. However, I enjoyed reading the articles on The Wall Street Journal by Peter Sims, and on The Harvard Business Review by Andrew McAfee. Apparently all the real game changers like Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and others have studied in Montessori schools!
So, by my experience with both educational systems and as a mother of a child with some learning disability, I have found the Montessori method to be the best one to address to all types of students, including the ones with dyslexia, attention disorders and learning problems in general. I am here again to advocate for the third alternative. Now it has a name. The (Italian) American Montessori approach.