The Distinct Advantages of Montessori Educational Years

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Perspective

Bola Benson

Making a decision on what school is best for your child is an important one at all junctions. Certainly, first steps are often important ones, choosing wisely at nursery level ensures a great foundation for all else that will inevitably follow. There are many good early years practices out there and they often share important principles. However, the Montessori approach is unique because not only does it meet all early year’s developmental goals, but it provides many peculiar advantages.

The Language Factor

It is important to note here that whilst many early years systems now employ a phonetic introduction to language (including jolly phonics, letter land, phonics international), Montessori has always employed a phonetic system. This is not surprising, as the entire Montessori approach is pragmatic and practical; its focus on the child using its senses; most notably its visual, tactile and auditory sense towards acquiring language. Montessori goes further towards encouraging ‘total reading’; which encourages not only the ‘decoding’ of sounds towards reading, but fosters real appreciation for the written and spoken word.

From the earliest stages, there is a real sustained effort at building and enriching vocabulary, even with all other areas of the curriculum infused with language opportunities. There is language built into Mathematics curriculum, language underpins the practical life curriculum and culture curriculums. The sensorial curriculum is rich with language; specifically introducing children to adjectives in a very concrete and structured manner. The Montessori child comes away with strong language abilities; gained not merely from his language lessons but from his entire experience at a Montessori school.

Sensorial Introduction to the abstract

Mathematics deals with many abstract concepts, particularly the further along you get. The ability to calculate, quantify, estimate, qualify and make judgements are essential skills. The Montessori Sensorial Curriculum essentially addresses all these demands and more. It provides the foundation useful towards acquiring these skills including a sense of order, pattern recognition, logical thought, appreciation for precision and critical evaluation amongst others. Best of all, the child acquires these skills as a result of his own experience gained through his senses; the child in manipulating a longer rod can appreciate it is somehow ‘more than’ a shorter rod he manipulates similarly. All activities are arranged to proceed from simple to complex; ensuring the child has already developed initial skills that will allow him seamlessly take on more complex ones.

The language he is then given corresponds directly to his experience; allowing him properly and accurately express his ‘discoveries’. These sensorial materials are a wonderful ‘bridge’ to the more abstract world of formal mathematics and allows even young children experience areas hitherto believed to be too advanced for them, for example geometry. A child who has ‘felt’ the four corners and sides of a square or the denseness of a cube will quickly learn it has four sides and recognise its surfaces within the cube. Once armed with these relevant experiences, the child can proceed to fully grasping abstract concepts with real understanding.

Mathematics

Montessori believed every child has a ‘mathematical mind’. The ‘Montessori child’ has been prepared for Mathematics and the progression is wholly natural. He is aware of important concepts such as quantity, familiar with the succession and patterns therein, he can notice increase and decrease and is familiar with units of difference. He has had active experience with geometry. Even the practical life activities have acted as indirect preparation for exercises such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

This child will inherently understand that bigger numbers are made up of components of smaller ones and see that addition is the direct opposite of subtraction as division is to multiplication. There is a real naturalness to the learning of Mathematics which means no Montessori child goes away with a phobia for or dislike of the subject. There is no cramming of principles, rather guided experience that leads to understanding. A clear understanding means Montessori kids can then readily apply the knowledge in daily situations. With Montessori, naturally mathematical kids’ have wings to fly; able to go at their own rapid pace while those less mathematically inclined acquire all the basic skills they need to build upon.

Practical Life

The benefits of practical life activities, synonymous to the Montessori approach are so universally accepted by all early years practitioners that best practice in non-Montessori settings include practical life activities. Many good quality educational toys similarly mimic Montessori materials; particularly in early years. It is apparent that the developmental aims that underpins them; independence, concentration and development of co-ordination are appreciated as essential building blocks for all learning. The tendency to independence is intrinsic to humans and essential to their development, a factor Montessori ensured acted as a bedrock to her approach. The curriculum entails the acquisition of many practical skills centred around care of self, care of others and care of the environment. Activities include those that aid eating and drinking, getting dressed, keeping the environment clean, using the bathroom and even grace and courtesy (basic social skills) including exchanging greetings, proper way to get past someone, accept a gift and many more.

The child’s co-ordination skills are practiced through many of these activities. Furthermore, the ability to complete activities; organise, execute and conclude, often self-chosen activities allows the child develop levels of concentration that are vital to all learning. Montessori children are encouraged to work, and allow others to do same, in an environment that fosters concentration. Again, there are many language opportunities here; as the child is given language for all the materials he works with before a presentation is made. His vocabulary is thus further broadened and his independence is positively harnessed towards his own educational journey.

Culture

In exposing children to culture even in the early stages of education, you provide keys to the world. The child will utilise these keys in learning more about himself and the world around him. There are real learning opportunities in areas such as physical geography, history, arts, music and simple science. Why should we encourage children to believe a cow jumped over the moon and not let him know there are 7 continents in the world or that our world is made of land and water? As is synonymous with Montessori, these activities are introduced in a concrete fashion; allowing children learn through their senses.

However, as children enter into the primary; equipped with the sensorial exploration, they are able to learn much more abstractly. Again, all the cultural materials are further enriched through language opportunities at every level. Early, positive and informative awareness to various cultures allows for a tolerance and appreciation for others despite our differences. The Montessori child is culturally sensitive.

Montessori offers a scientific, ordered and developmental approach to education. It does not offer miracles or quick fixes. Nothing actually does this and systems offering this often based upon only shallow and short term goals. Montessori works because it has been designed to do so. All these advantages Montessori brings can only be enjoyed in institutions that practice real Montessori.

Benson is the Head of The Libra House Montessori School

SAP Africa Honours 26 Nigerian Graduates, Partners Covenant Varsity on Dual Study Programme

As part of the public-private-academic partnerships aimed at supporting young Nigerian talents, SAP Africa has recognised 26 outstanding Nigerian candidates who successfully completed a three-month intensive digital training and certification programme.

The SAP Young Professional Programme is organised by SAP in partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and hosted by Deloitte.

The graduation ceremony, which held in Lagos recently, was attended by the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr. Hakeem Fahm, who represented Lagos State Government.

In his remarks, Fahm said: “True transformation is only possible when there is a shift in mindset from the ordinary to the outstanding as exhibited by SAP with its efforts at putting an end to digital skills shortage which affects the growth and innovation potential of even the most successful global organisations.

“Around this time last year, we were all gathered here to celebrate the first crop of graduates of this programme, who have since then supported organisations to thrive in the digital era thanks to the knowledge and skills acquired from the programme. The intensity at which the SAP work-ready digital skills agenda is impacting lives is a testament to the fact that with proper grooming, African youths can indeed play active roles in the much-anticipated digital skills and technologies -dominated future economy.”

The SAP Young Professional Programme, an initiative offered under the umbrella of SAP Skills for Africa, has since its launch in 2012, trained and graduated more than 990 youths across Africa and more than 2,550 talents globally.

According to the Managing Director at SAP Africa, Cathy Smith, there is great urgency in equipping more African youths with digital skills, as more than 40 million high-skilled workers will be needed globally by 2020.

“Considering that youths account for 60 per cent of Africa’s unemployed, and that the continent has the largest and fastest-growing youth population in the world, it is imperative that we equip our young talent with the skills they need to be active participants in the global economy.

“The overwhelming response so far, has further fuelled our organisation’s commitment to continue training programmes that will help empower the local communities by closing the digital skills gap; providing businesses with the right support system; and powering economic expansion.” Smith added: “We thank our customers and partners including Deloitte, Eta-Zuma Group, Oryx Systems Limited, Shell Nigeria and WYZE Consulting that hired recent programme graduates of the SAP Young Professional Programme in Nigeria and hereby join our efforts to enable today’s youth for the digital era.”

Graduates that form part of the Young Professional Programme undergo a rigorous selection process before embarking on the three-month full-time training programme, where they are equipped with SAP and soft skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace. This makes every graduate of the programme immediately employable in a range of public and private sector companies. Through SAP’s close partnership with its customers and industry partners, over 99 per cent of all programme graduates secure work placement upon graduation.

One of the graduates from the inaugural programme in 2018, who is now employed at WYZE Consulting as SAP Presales and Delivery Consultant, Adedoyin Akande said: “Definitely, the Young Professional Programme was the major start of my career and the training equipped me with so much competence to help me kickstart my career.”

This cohort of the SAP Young Professional Programme in Nigeria is part of a recently announced collaboration between SAP and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with the aim to jointly create 450 jobs for highly qualified personnel in the IT sector in 10 African countries over the course of three years. The cooperation project is part of the special initiative ‘Training and Job Creation’ and the develoPPP for jobs programme that the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH implements on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Building on its previous efforts on digital skills and youth enablement in Nigeria and beyond, SAP recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Covenant University in Nigeria for the dual study programme, extending the programme’s reach to 24 universities across 13 countries globally.

The Senior Vice-President of Digital Skills Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa at SAP, Marita Mitschein, who is also the Managing Director of the SAP Training and Development Institute, said: “In partnership with leading universities, the 6-12 months programme combines university theoretical studies with the opportunity for students to take SAP certification during academic years under the collaborative curriculum. This helps bridge the gap between university and workplace by giving students a competitive edge. With a pervasive digital skills shortage affecting the growth and innovation potential of even the most successful global organisations, both the SAP Young Professional Programme and the SAP Dual Study Programme provide organisations with ready-to-employ tech talent with scarce digital skills on market-leading SAP technologies.”

The Assistant Professor and Director International Officer and Linkages at Covenant University,

Dr. Ada said: “The dual study programme is a great opportunity for our students to build the right skillset required by the labour market before they graduate, which allows them to kickstart their career immediately after graduation. By joining hands with the market leader in enterprise application software we can empower our young people who will shape the future of our country and our continent.”