Dr Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was the author of a system of education called the Montessori System , named after her. The system aimed at making school, fn for the young learners. She was Italy’s first woman doctor.
A young doctor at 26, working at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, she made a startling discovery that the mentally retarded children were classified as insane and were treated as such. Moved by their pitiable condition, she began to think whether it would not be possible to do something to improve their lot. She worked hard studying the progress of each child, analyzing, designing her apparatus on the basis of the results yielded. She did not have to wait long for a reward for her tiresome labour. At a public examination a large number of her ‘idiot children’ performed as well as normal children from other schools.
Montessori’s work was acclaimed as a miracle all over Italy. If her method could educate a mentally deficient child so as o match the performance of a normal child trained through the conventional methods, she believed it should be possible by adopting the new technique, for a child to record a much better progress. The existing system, she said, crushed the personality of children completely and made them unhappy. She believed that the system should be such that the child should love to learn.
Montessori ran an infant school where children under six years of age were taught. To her great surprise, she found that the children were not content with being allowed to play, but in fact ‘demanded to learn.’ She constantly effected modifications in the designs of her apparatus. Her efforts made children happy and enabled them to enjoy their childhood.
Today, thousands of Montessori schools all over the world are living memorials to the struggle she carried on for the children’s rights. The Montessori System emphasizes importance for children of 3-6 years of freedom of choice and action and use of exercises and games in the growth of coordination, perpetual skills. But, her truest memorials are the smiling faces that line up every day at the bus-stops being taken to their schools where tears are not a necessary price for learning!