A stirring story of determination and courage
Maria Montessori was a courageous girl breaking the conventional barriers of education set up for those of her gender in the 1890s in Chiaravalle, Italy.
As a little girl, she initially aspired to become an engineer. Maria joined the University of Rome in 1890 and became the first woman to join a medical college in Italy.
Due to gender bias, Maria faced many obstacles during her study and finally qualified as a doctor in 1896. Dr Montessori was very competent and treated patients from all social classes with the same respect. She was also a member of the Women’s Rights Movement and later joined a research programme at the University of Rome in the psychiatric clinic.
A revolution in early childhood education
Maria got the opportunity to further investigate and improve the teaching methods when she was appointed as the co-director of Orthophrenic School. The school admitted a number of children with different disorders and developmental disabilities. She decided to approach the task in a scientific manner by analysing and observing the different teaching methods to find the one that was best for the children. Maria passionately worked throughout the day and compiled her notes at night.
In 1901, Montessori began her study in anthropology and educational philosophy and joined as a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome. During this period of development in Rome, parents were out for work all day while the children created havoc at home. Hence, Maria was approached to keep the children engaged so that they do not damage the newly constructed apartments. Maria willingly accepted the opportunity to open a childcare centre for the poor families.
She brought some of the material that she had developed for children in the Orthophrenic School. Soon she introduced many new activities and other materials but only decided to keep the ones that engaged the children. She realised that when children are placed in an environment that supports their natural development,
they have the power of self-education. The young children progressed brilliantly and the news of Montessori’s education approach started spreading rapidly throughout Italy.
Spreading the Montessori Method worldwide
In 1909, Montessori conducted the first training session in her educational approach for 100 students.
This was followed by the establishment of a number of Montessori schools, societies, and training programs all over the world. Maria was soon occupied in public speaking and lectures in different
After she refused to be a part of Mussolini’s plans to incorporate the Montessori schools into the youth movement for fascists, he closed down all her schools. In 1939, Maria and her son went to India to run a training course for 3 months in Madras.
. She believed: “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity. He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being. We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline
The Montessori Method of education created a century ago still remains relevant despite the development and changes in education. Montessori education is based on the principle of respect for the child. Maria Montessori believed that when children are respected and given the freedom to choose the material they want to work with, they have the power to educate themselves. Over a period of 100 years, the Montessori Method has enabled the all-round development of hundreds and thousands of children