CHENNAI : Even as the Montessori model of education is gaining prominence in Chennai, it is adopted more often by private schools than State-run ones, as the cost of setting-up and special training for teachers are both, expensive. In a bid to break this pattern, Sri Ramacharan foundation, an education non-governmental organisation, has set up Montessori kindergarten classrooms in 13 schools run by the Chennai Corporation and one by the government.
In Chennai Middle School, MGR Nagar, the student strength has doubled since the inception of Montessori education six years ago, says principal S Sujatha. “The parents who are attracted by the Montessori classes, continue to enroll their children in our higher classes,” she said.
Three-year-old Nisha carefully places a knife on a carrot and chops it into tiny pieces. Once she is done, she scoops the pieces into a cup, wipes the cutting board, washes the knife and replaces it on a rack at the back of her kindergarten classroom. This exercise is part of her sensory training.
Education is an assistance to life. This is the principle with which Montessori model of education was evolved. More than 15 years ago, a member of Sri Ramacharan foundation used to conduct free tuition after school. In 2004, a corporation school headmistress had reached out to the trust, seeking help to conduct spoken English classes, said Usha Jayaraman, one of the trustees.
“The other trustees and I went into an elementary classroom and saw that the teacher held a ruler in her hand and asked students to sit silently with their index on the lip. We immediately realised that this is unfair to children who were bursting with energy. Therefore, after much research, we decided to help set up Montessori based classrooms in corporation schools,” Usha said.
To explore and be active is a natural urge of a child, she said, adding that activity is crucial to self development. While free activity is available at home, structured meaningful activity should be available at school, she said. “When activity is given a framework, it helps the child to work within the structure towards a fixed goal. When there is a goal, the mind automatically works to achieve the goal,” said Rani Murugan, a Monstessori teacher at the school. There is an array of activities from which children can choose.
Other classmates of Nisha are learning to count with an abacus, arrange blocks from big to small or heavy to light, pour water from jars to cup and back and arrange wooden cut-outs of alphabet in order.
Sitting by her, her friend rolls heart-shaped chapati dough with a rolling pin. He too replaces everything he used after he is content.
Each student is doing an activity they chose to do that day.
“Usually, we explain the activities and the structure to the children and ask them what they want to do each day. We teach them to replace everything they use, keep their surroundings clean and when they see their friends doing it, they pick up quickly. We never order them to do anything. We treat them with respect,” she said, adding that several parents have told them that their wards continue to behave with responsibility even at home.