Ensuring that children have the skills and experience they need to succeed in the digital age of employment is one of the most important issues for 21st century education. It may seem like it’s a little too early to begin discussing the topic of employment in the same sentence as early education. However, it’s important that our children are prepared for the challenges of the future economy. Research has identified that students need to develop specific skills and abilities to be attractive to digital age employers. These include: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication; otherwise known as ‘The Four C’s.’ These skills can’t be taught by teaching children to memorize mindlessly and repeat. They must develop these skills through rich learning experiences that inspire them to master these skills over time. This poses the question, how can early education prepare our children with the tools and skills they need to succeed in the digital economy? The answer can be found in a century-old method of education: Montessori.
Montessori education encourages children to develop their critical thinking skills by providing them with the environment, materials, and guidance they need to achieve their developmental potential. Each material is specifically designed to isolate one concept or skill, and has an inbuilt control of error, which allows the child to ‘discover’ the outcome of the material independent of an adult. The self-correcting aspects of the Montessori materials encourage children to organize their thinking, problem solve in a clear way, and absorb the outcome of the material under the careful guidance of their teachers (guides).
The structure of the Montessori program encourages children to develop the skills of collaboration through hands-on learning experiences and cooperative play. Multi-age classrooms ensure that children moving through the group are exposed to both older and younger peers, encouraging imitative learning, peer tutoring, and all round collaboration. This structure to the Montessori environment also leads to the development of a harmonious classroom community, which leads to the optimal learning environment for children.
Montessori education recognizes that creativity is not a skill that is learned, so much as it evolves from a long process of cognitive development. This process begins when the child is born, and develops spontaneously as the child’s intelligence becomes established over time. Creativity is crucial in Montessori education as it is viewed as part of how children come to understand their world, and construct themselves through self-expression.
So how does Montessori education prepare children for the skills needed in the 21st century? Our classroom environments foster self-disciple, responsibility, creativity, and individuality through freedom of choice and a focus on independence. The guiding role of our teachers encourage students to follow their passions, learn from their mistakes, and self-motivate
Montessori is and will continue to be the best way to prepare children for the challenges of the future because it is based on how children learn.