Learning is a never ending process. Throughout our entire lives, we never cease to discover and study old and new things around us. Much of what we know now, we have acquired through formal education. The same goes for our children.
But as parents, we always want our kids to have more than what we have, to enjoy the kind of opportunities that have been denied to us. And that includes the kind of education that encourages them to become better than we are.
That is why progessive education is something that I’d like to talk to you about.
Whether in a literary or purely biological sense, human beings are born to discover. As infants, we are curious beings who want to touch, smell, hear, and taste everything around us. As we grow older, this inborn hunger for knowledge is channeled by educational institutions that fill our minds with a storage-full of information, including complex equations, formulas, important historical dates, and scientific facts. Unfortunately, this data is often merely stored and not fully understood. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that years of learning through rote memorization and repetitive instruction is one of the main reasons why people lose their spark of curiosity. By focusing too much on what we learn, and not why and how we learn it, even our creative thinking can become inhibited.
This is a significant point, especially in today’s fast-paced, lateral-thinking, and creative-driven world. Although traditional methods of education have produced some of history’s most brilliant minds, it appears that the past two decades have seen a radical shift in terms of equipping students with effective skills for real-world success. Learning systems that emphasize strict standardization may be ideal under uniform conditions, but as we know, life is rarely ever regimented. And this is where Montessori de San Juan School comes in.
Sandy Arellano of the Montessori de San Juan School is a passionate educator and an advocate of this progressive type of learning. “I believe what is happening now is that schools and parents are too fixated on the effect, which is good academic performance,” she explained. “I can tell you through years of experience, however, that doing well in school is the natural result of a happy, motivated, and well-adjusted student. So why not focus diligently on the cause, rather than the effect?” Arellano further emphasized.
Arellano admits that part of Montessori de San Juan’s core objectives is to address the drawbacks of traditional schooling that often result in lethargic, poor-performing children. This includes over-scheduled students, too much note-taking and not enough attention to the actual lessons, over-cramming information in a short period of time, an unreasonable amount of homework (which often goes unsupervised during the actual process of completion), and a one-size-fits all mentality for learners. “Are our students less busy or less equipped? Quite the opposite. Our children have such a love for learning, and a genuine excitement to go to school and practice what they are taught, that they consistently end up scoring higher than their peers in standardized tests,” she pointed out.
Moreover, Arellano believes that schools should likewise make a determined effort to provide students with an environment that makes them feel empowered rather than constrained. “Each student is an individual, and different from all others. Children have their own special way of learning and understanding things. Attempting to fit all of them into a rigid and standardized structure may not maximize their full potential,” she noted.
Accordingly, a small class size is paramount to knowing the needs of each and every student. In Montessori de San Juan, there are around 150 students from grades 1 to 12, with approximately 12-15 students per class. With a class size like that, it is easy to gauge whether a student is a visual, tactile or auditory learner, and from there, this is how teachers assess their approach to the students. “Another issue nowadays is how too much time is spent presenting the material, leaving very little time for practice – thus leading to piles of homework. In our school, everything is worksheets, modules, and hands-on activities related to the subject matter,” Arellano added. Also, in the classroom setting, students are grouped in wider age spans, namely 3-6, 7-9, and 10-12. This helps them form relationships and bonds with kids of different ages.
As the students get older, the teaching method becomes semi-progressive, semi-traditional setup, adding textbooks into the mix. With age comes a bit of homework, which is kept at a minimum since teachers assess their students through their performance in the classroom. “Our classroom activities involve 90 percent application and only 10 percent discussion, so a lot of the kids are able to see the practicality and the use of the subject matter they are learning. We try to show them the direct applications to what they are learning,” Arellano concluded.
My husband who has experienced the Montessori way of progressive education swears by the positive and wonderful results of this method. It is unlike the boring, monotonous style of traditional teaching.
Due to numerous success stories regarding progressively educated children, Montessori de San Juan is gaining quite a reputation as an elite school. Despite this, however, the school remains grounded in its mission to cultivate students who love learning so much, and learn so well, that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned in the future. From all indications, it is fulfilling this mission remarkably well.
To learn more about Montessori de San Juan, contact 725-6306 or 239-1102, or visit montessoridesanjuan.com.ph