Even before the arrival of Dr. Montessori in India, she had captured many hearts in the sub-continent. From the first casa in 1907 in Rome, to the arrival of Dr. Montessori in India for the first AMI Montessori course in 1939 in Adyar – India had been fairly quick to catch on with the Montessori method.
The awareness of Montessori education and its benefits for the children during the first three years had been in the known from 1912 when Sarladevi Sarabhai, a young mother travelled to England and came across Montessori’s books during her journey in the ship.
The years that followed, brought in more awareness about Dr. Montessori’s educational method. At the invitation of Dr. Arundale and Rukmini Devi Arundale, Dr. Montessori arrived in Madras and conducted the first AMI course in Adyar in 1939. From then on, nearly eighty years now, Montessori education in India continues to transform the lives of children, inspire educators, Montessori practitioners and experts who want to create awareness about the importance of the early years in childhood.
The Montessori movement in India which started with a small group of people on the banks of the Adyar River, under the shade of the banyan tree in the Theosophical Society, is now deeply rooted. It is steadily growing in strength helping children reach their full potential.
The timeline that was drafted to chronicle the history of Montessori movement in India, continues to be filled with events that shows the immensity of the growth and awareness about the movement.
What is Montessori?
Montessori’s vision is that education should be an aid to life leading to the unity of humanity to live harmoniously and in peace together. Montessori through her lifelong observation of children believed that this can be achieved by supporting the natural developmental needs of the child during the four distinctive periods of growth, from birth to 24 years, each stage lasting 6 years.
The central principle in the Montessori philosophy is the idea of a prepared environment which meets the tangible and intangible needs of children during these four stages of their development. One of the essential elements of the environment is a mixed age community. This is essential in giving the children access to a holistic social environment.
Montessori environments offer the children the opportunity to work with specially designed materials which help children to develop in every way. Freedom to work with an understanding adult’s guidance allows the children to learn through their own experiences.
Born in Chiaravalle in the Province of Ancona in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first woman to practise medicine in Italy, having graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896. Through her medical practice, Dr. Montessori came in direct contact with young children and began to study their development. Her intensive study led her to realise that the interaction between the child and his environment led to the construction of the child’s personality.
Her approach to education stemmed from her own background in the sciences. And her thoroughness of study based on an observation of children from different backgrounds in several countries around the world led her to spot the universality of the laws of human development.
In 1929, Dr. Montessori established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to continue her multi-layered work and protect its integrity. Today AMI has come a long way from that point and is a leading world body carrying forward Dr. Montessori’s work in the spirit in which it was conceived. Headquartered in Amsterdam in Dr. Montessori’s final home, AMI is an international body directing Training Courses all over the world – monitoring the standards of the course and issuing diplomas. AMI is affiliated to the United Nations through UNESCO and strives to further the rights of the child in society. AMI seeks to carry on the dialogue with experts from all fields of learning to further the understanding of human development, a dialogue that Dr. Montessori herself began nearly a hundred years ago. The primary objective of AMI – to maintain, propagate and further the ideas and principles of Dr. Maria Montessori for the full development of the human being – has won support round the world.
Dr. Montessori continued her own observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding until her death in 1952.
Mario Montessori, the son of Maria Montessori, was born on March 31, 1898. Brought up quietly in the Italian countryside, he came to know his mother well only when he was almost 15 years old. From the beginning he collaborated in Maria Montessori’s life work with an intuitive understanding of her educational philosophy and her vision of a peaceful humanity built by the child. This collaboration between mother and son which lasted through the World Wars continued till his mother’s death in 1952. Throughout her busy life, Mario helped his mother in all aspects of her work, training students and developing educational materials based on observation of children.
Mario accompanied Maria Montessori all over the world. He was particularly involved with the development of the idea of cosmic education and deeply influenced the nature of the work done with the 6-12 year olds. He became president of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), a position he held until his death in 1982. He is remembered for the important foundation he gave to AMI in his effort to secure and pass on the essential principles of her work.
Montessori in India
The Indian Montessori Foundation was founded with the vision of enabling children to reach their full potential through the principles of Montessori education leading towards a more harmonious and peaceful world.
India hosted the 26th International Montessori Congress in Chennai, at the Kalakshetra Foundation in January 2009. The Congress brought together over six hundred participants from thirty nine countries. After the Congress it was felt that such an important event should lead to something of lasting value for the country. The Indian Montessori Foundation was born.