CHENNAI: Children at the Patasala Montessori School can see what their school building is made of — exposed, unfinished brick walls and rafters that hold their tiled roof in place. Here, learning takes place through the environment and not through textbooks. Long division is done graphically by drawing coloured lines on papers stuck on the wall. They bring their lunch in baskets they have woven.
After starting as a pioneer in the field of Montessori education 25 years ago, the school celebrated its silver jubilee with an exhibition and a series of lectures to give people a first-hand experience of the Montessori system.
“Playing is not all that makes children happy. Maria Montessori believes that children will work towards building a better society. Satisfaction cannot be given to a child; it will come when they work hard,” said Rukmini Ramachandran, director for training at the Navadisha Montessori Foundation and a guest speaker at the session.
Most parents worry about whether children can adapt to mainstream schools and a competitive environment after being used to an independent learning system. “It is not that these children are not tested — they test themselves and learn from their mistakes. We don’t believe that marks are an indicator of a person’s character,” said Rukmini.
Ann Dunne, member of the training group at Association Montessori Internationale and director of training in Dublin, inaugurated the exhibition and said that in n a country with diverse economic backgrounds, Montessori schools are often considered the realm of a privileged few. But teachers believe that the system started in a slum environment, and the schools are trying to mimic it in their own ways.
Commending the RTE Act, she said although the idea of getting children from mixed economic backgrounds together is good, capping fees does not help the cause.
“The implementation is not right. If we cut costs, we cannot provide the intended programmes,” she said.
The three-day exhibition at the school campus in Mahalingapuram features children’s work. Parents can attend lectures on learning without textbooks.