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Relevance of Montessori method of Education in the Indian Context

Early childhood is called the foundation stage of human development because the synchronization of movements and mental faculties required determination and intellect to create a future engineer, artist, surgeon, magician, musician, and so on. They`re laid down at this point. Despite its significance, early childhood education has been given less priority.

In this way, India was no different from the rest of the world. According to Manu Smriti, schooling started in the Vedic world in the fourth, eighth, and tenth years of conception.

Until then, the children had been educated at home, by mothers, grandmas, aunts, and other extended household members. The word "educated" may not be the best word to use here, as women have been kept out of literacy until recently in India. Much of early education was through songs and epic stories. Similarly, early education was a modern idea also in Western societies. It was only during the industrial revolution that women began to work outside, that young child became a burden because they were too young to go to school and too old to carry. Thus, preschools began to take care of these children and to prepare them for formal schooling, which was also followed by the Eastern world.

The purpose of early childhood education, according to most educators and the government, is to prepare children for formal schooling, which involves training them to sit in one position, listen carefully to the teacher, and copy notes from the blackboard to the notebook without making any mistakes. The term "Pre-School" indicates the focus of early childhood education. While much work has been done in the West, including the Developmental Appropriate Practices (DAP) in Early Childhood Education (ECE) and making learning enjoyable. Whereas, no such concerted efforts have been made in India. These ideas are still under formation and initial stage and have not yet entered the stage of preparation, on the pretext that they are not adapted to Indian classroom size, power, quality of teachers, community, and the list goes on.

It is known that early childhood education in the most private pre-schools is painfully academic and has little room for play or any physical activity. There have been many physical, emotional, and other issues in children due to lack of play. Physical education periods are placed in school schedules to make learning fun and keep children physically fit, and regular brain exercise and stress bursting exercises along with meditation are exercised.

It`s not all the school’s fault. Parents are more conscious of the importance of early childhood education. They are more convinced of the importance of English medium education and have realized that children learn better, faster, and more precisely when they are young. As a result, enrollment in early childhood education is increasing. Also parents in villages, and parents who don`t know how to speak English, want their children to speak English and admit their children to English medium schools.

In addition, the children were forced to carry a pencil while their fingers were not yet capable, to sit on a chair at a table whilst they were still perfecting their walking skills. While, on the one hand, we find parents who prioritize academics and, on the other hand, there is another group of parents who have liberal views and believe that children should not be able to write until they are seven years old and be left alone without ever hearing the word "no" in their lives. Both of these extremes are harmful to the child`s growth.

Research results suggest that the play synonymous with "childhood" is disappearing from the lives of children. The reasons for this state of affairs are discussed in the earlier chapter of this study. In India, 50 years ago, there was ample space to play, both at school and in the neighborhood. Today, kids can`t play at school or in the neighborhood. Parents are reluctant to let their children play on the roads as they did a few years ago. They think about their childhood and reminiscence, and they hope to have the same experience. They`re hopeful, and they`re looking forward to the school giving them room for games. It`s clear that children play less at school, too. This decreased play time and resulted in play deprivation, leading to physical and mental illness, depression, aggression, diminished impulse control, addictive behaviors, low school achievement and social anomalies, and so on. Play neglect expresses itself in the actions of adolescents, which has led the schools to implement stress management exercises at the beginning of the class instead of having space for play activities.

Despite being aware of the importance of play in early childhood education, preschoolers have their own difficulties in paying attention to this important aspect of early childhood education. The reasons for this are, firstly, that the number of children in the classrooms is inadequate in scale. So self-directed work and play are hardly supported. Second, children of the same generation have the same needs and conditions, regardless of their intellectual capacity. There is also a need for large quantities of material that are difficult to obtain and to store. Third, the non-Montessori method of teaching languages and arithmetic is based on instruction, resulting in less space for learning by play. Fourthly, the evaluation of children by means of marks or grades never promotes play activities. Finally, the program revolves around the old methods of reciting and writing without a lot of playtime.

This research explored different facets of early childhood education in conjunction with Montessori and non-Montessori methods. It is a surprise that even in Montessori`s approach to play is not evident in the real sense. However, the materials are highly practical and there is no room for pretense in them. Although non-Montessori schools represent play activities, Montessori activities symbolize education. Children under the age of six seem to have an unshakeable fascination for real things.

They like to button a real shirt instead of pretend to button a doll, or enjoy making real lemonade instead of pretend to make coffee with their miniature kitchen set.

The First Hypothesis:

Play does exist in Montessori Approach: several studies of schools showed a substantial gap between the Montessori and non-Montessori approaches. In Montessori, children have been participating in activities on an individual basis, continuously during the day. There were group lessons for five to six students, singing sessions for the entire class. Play activities such as threading of plastic flowers, cutting paper, collecting scattered toys, making sandalwood paste, playing with Rangolimould, sweeping, mopping, chopping, grinding vegetables, peeling cucumbers, pounding, sieving, wrapping, washing, folding clothes, building blocks, cubes, rods, cylinder blocks, geometrical solids, map of India, pink tower, drawing insets, sandpaper letters, bins. All these tasks were given to all children by the teacher individually. However, there is no major gap between outdoor sports, using audio-visual tools and rote learning between Montessori and non-Montessori preschools. In both approaches, there was no evidence of indoor circle play. However, there have been practices such as walking one line and silent action in Montessori schools done by all children. The premises "Play does exist in the Montessori method" are therefore acknowledged.

The Second Hypothesis

Is Pretend play a part of the non-Montessori approach?:through several research, it was found that either Montessori or non-Montessori classrooms were not part of dramatic or imagined play. During the evaluation of the playground, the non-Montessori children engaged in imaginative play just 2 times out of 40. Whereas Montessori children accounted for 1.63 times out of 40 days. Just three deductions are concluded. Four, there is no major difference between Montessori and non-Montessori methods. Two, no pretend play in early childhood education in both methods, and three, unlike western equivalents of Indian teachers, as shown in the tests (Table 11), do not use dramatic play or puppet play in their classrooms. The Theories "Pretend play is a part of the non-Montessori method" are therefore dismissed.

The Third Hypothesis:

There is no substantial difference between Montessori and non-Montessori approaches in play: the analysis reveals that the Montessori method has slightly more free play with content, guided play with content, clay and sand, pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-numbering activities than the non-Montessori method. This premise is supported by the number of manipulative materials and learning aids which were significantly higher in the Montessori approach compared to the non-Montessori approach.

One of the important findings of several studies carried out is: while playing in the playground, Montessori children are mainly involved in free play6, while non-Montessori children are involved in both free play and constructive play. Thus, the findings indicate that there is no significant difference between the two approaches as far as outdoor play is concerned. However, there is a significant difference between the two approaches to free play with Free play with material, guided play with material, clay and sand play, pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-numbering activities. Circle games were not evident in either approach.

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The Fourth Hypothesis:

There is no substantial difference between Montessori and non-Montessori methods to delay gratification, executive functioning, mind theory, social problem solving and capacity building.Studies show that Montessori children are not significantly different from non-Montessori children in either the Executive function or the Theory of Mind. In delay gratification the non-Montessori children were slightly better off. Whereas the Montessori children were better at peg tapping. In Appearance and Reality, non-Montessori children are slightly better, while in false belief there was no difference between groups. Statistically, there is no significant difference between the results of Montessori and non-Montessori methods in the drawing test.

In all four social problem-solving tests – swing acquisition, book purchase and two friendship tests, Montessori children were found to be less aggressive and more competent compared to non-Montessori children. In one of the tests, i.e. balloon procurement, the Montessori children were more aggressive and less competent than the non-Montessori children. On the other hand, the ECEQAS indicated a significant difference between the two approaches to social development that Montessori children were more comfortable with strangers, welcomed each other and the teachers. Planning, sharing and interaction with peers and teachers has taken place. Equality was visible in the relationship of boys and girls and teachers in the Montessori classroom. The same thing was not evident in the non-Montessori approach.

In addition, the NIMHANS Index for Specific Learning Disability (SLD) was conducted to rule out any possible learning disabilities. This battery showed a substantial difference in auditory discrimination between Montessori and non-Montessori students. This is where Montessori`s children`s sense of training was clearly seen. Several lessons in Montessori also taught the child to identify the minute variations between the sounds. They were better able to distinguish the differences than the non-Montessori students.

To sum up, there are play activities in the Montessori classroom. Whereas, in non-Montessori, outdoor activities have more scope. Researches shows no substantial difference between Montessori and Non-Montessori approaches to Executive Function, Theory of Mind, Social Problem Solving and Drawing. It is still a misconception that Montessori is a Western philosophy that can not be applied to the Indian context. In Montessori`s curriculum, the practice of practical life is based on the culture of society to which the children of the school belong. Sensorial and arithmetic practices are the same all over the world. Any of the Montessori schools teach both English and state languages. Some Montessori schools are adding a third language as they have to study in their primary schools. This means that the Montessori schools in India are Indianized. While Maria Montessori was in India, she developed the method applicable to the second stage of growth, i.e. between 6 and 12 years of age, and wrote her popular book "Absorbent Mind." She has been associated with the Indian Education System and has visited India many times in connection with the establishment of the Montessori University. Her efforts all show her concern for early childhood education in India.

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