The Montessori approach is an established and accepted educational template for early childhood education which harmonizes with and supports Islamic values, and which has demonstrated superior results in preparing young children for academic success.
- Traditional education
The application of traditional educational methods during the early childhood years, though widely embraced in the U.S. today, is not the ideal means for supporting the real needs and objectives of the young child, whose goal it is to explore the world around him, and to exercise and discover the extent of his abilities and capabilities in navigating it.
Traditional education frequently relies upon teaching methods, strategies and techniques that impose conformity upon students in terms of process (how things are done), and uniformity in terms of outcome, or result (the finished product). This approach can be both necessary and effective when the subject matter is mathematics or physics. But during the years of early childhood, our goal is to nurture the child’s potentialities and to encourage them to become manifest, thereby enabling the child to learn her own capacities and abilities for influencing the world around her. This is best accomplished by removing constraints and expectations, by providing latitude for the child to explore, create and to expand his thinking. So clearly, early childhood programs that demand standardized process and uniform outcomes (i.e. a traditional educational approach) tend to stifle a child’s natural curiosity, creativity and innate desire to learn. Such programs de-value the essence of what makes every child unique.
Additionally, traditional educational methods commonly invoke a top-down approach to the program structure – classrooms are typically teacher-directed, and thereby compel compliance on the part of the student. Again – this can work well when we’re discussing subjects of an absolute or scientific nature. But during early childhood, to invoke a top-down, teacher-directed approach in the classroom usurps a child’s opportunity to exercise autonomy, to exercise choice, and to experience natural consequences; it deprives children opportunities to practice self-regulation, self-discipline, and to develop and internalize a sense of personal accountability – virtues highly valued in our deen. When we divest young children of opportunities to explore, experiment, to attempt and succeed, we expropriate their moment to discover capabilities, to gain and build confidence, and to develop a sense of personal value and self-worth.
There can be an appropriate time for the application of a traditional approach in education – but the early childhood years are certainly not best served by it. To the contrary, young children are better served by way of a more participative, collaborative approach, which happens to be one of the distinguishing characteristics of theMontessori Method.
“Respect” serves as the very cornerstone of Montessori philosophy – respect for self, respect for others and respect for the world around us. For this reason, it provides an infrastructure for education that is in exquisite harmony with the teachings of Islam. The Montessori approach to education celebrates the qualities that make a child unique; it encourages independence and freedom – and yet it emphasizes the importance of personal accountability and personal responsibility attendant to such privileges.
In Montessori philosophy we find program structure that is defined by collaboration and program methods defined by freedom with accountability. And – although Montessori is philosophically secular, it affords an infrastructure for education that is not only harmonious with, but clearly supportive of Islamic thought and teachings. Moreover, because there is widespread appreciation (global, in fact) for the Montessori approach as a superior method of education, to implement it at the ECC would provide the credibility needed to demonstrate that our program is in fact, highly competitive with any other educational alternative available in St. Louis.