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Education today – Question marks and certainties 

 

Ideas as to what “good education” means as well as the conditions and the paths young people can take to attain it are in a state of continuous development. A lot has happened in the last 15 years, and this development has progressed so rapidly that many educators, parents and experts now feel lost and left behind.

 

Time and again, discoveries which are initially celebrated – and also the way they are interpreted by various interest groups – have proven to be folly and put children and youth at a disadvantage.

One such example was the major education congress held in Berlin in 2005 on the subject of “The discovery of early years”, which ushered in a new era of education policy. Politicians, educators, business experts, psychologists and other specialists came together to exchange ideas on the significance of education in the 21st century.

A veritable boom in education and more importantly early childhood education was the result, which brought about new curricula for elementary education and all school levels, and included honed, standardized control systems. Within an extremely short period of time, a wide range of programmes were developed which were intended to provide even better support for children and youth while promising success and effectiveness.

 

This immediately put considerable pressure on parents as well as education specialists in kindergartens and schools since they were all driven by the worry of failing to take advantage of alleged opportunities to improve children’s performance.

This pressure rested all the more on the shoulders of educators in view of the increase in full-day offerings at that time, which meant growing numbers of children and youth spending more and more time in facilities such as day nurseries, kindergartens and schools and less and less time with their parents and families.

In his book “Rettet das Spiel!” (Save the Game!), Prof. Gerald Hüther describes how, in the name of more efficient and more performance-orientated (early) childhood education, more and more children had to experience being “turned into the object of expectations, appraisals, reprimands or other measures by mum, dad or some other figure to whom they feel emotionally attached. In order words, the child or youth then perceives himself as no longer as being loved and accepted in his uniqueness as a subject. His brain and its harmonious arrangement of neural networks as well as the patterns of stimulation, which were in perfect alignment up to this point, fall into a state of massive incoherence.”

 

These voices have grown in number along with the research literature published in a wide variety of scientific fields on this issue over the past few years, e.g. in education (Prof. André Zimpel “Spielen macht Schlau” (Smart Through Play)), neurobiology (Prof. Gerald Hüther, Prof. Manfred Spitzer, among others.), medicine (Prof. Joachim Bauer “Lob der Schule” (In Praise of School)), psychology (Haim Omer “The New Authority: Family School Community”) and sociology (Hartmut Rosa “Resonanz” (Resonance)).

 

This destroyed any remaining faith in the efficient development of performance in early childhood through superficial programmes, and it was replaced with the following insight of the research in these disciplines:

 

The most important prerequisite for working educational processes is the successful shaping of relationships.

 

What does this mean?

Children and youth need role models who are themselves capable of enthusiasm and who are able to develop an interest in many different subjects.

It is equally important for the adults – i.e. parents and teachers – to team up and form an “education partnership“, i.e. become partners in education who do not speculate first and foremost in terms of maximum performance and good school grades, but instead have a mutual interest in the growing the development potentials of a child and youth.

Dr. Maria Montessori recognized this more than 100 years ago when she demanded a “stop to merely preparing pupils to take examinations which they need for their further paths, and instead lead them to assume more and more responsibility and independence, which they manage through their own effort of will in order to achieve the greatest possible self-development.”

 

Our courses, advanced seminars and workshops are based on the fundamental insights which Maria Montessori and her son Mario gained over decades of intensive research and mindful work with children and youth and which are comprehensively described in the literature.

 

In order to provide for this educational approach in the 21st century, we continuously reflect on content using other progressive educational approaches as examples and taking the most recent discoveries in education, psychology, neurobiology, medicine and sociology into account.

 

Maria Montessori likewise recognized early on how groundbreaking collaboration with parents is in this context: upon commencing her work in her first “casa dei bambini” in Rome, she observed that mothers and fathers who were illiterate themselves were very interested in the work of their four- or five-year-old children and came to the school to see and learn what their children were learning: reading, writing and arithmetic. Trusting cooperation between educators and parents has been of fundamental significance in the Montessori educational approach ever since. Everyone can learn from everyone else.

 

We have therefore made this principle of “learning for all” the standard in our Academy work as well. Our courses, advanced seminars and workshops have always provided an educational platform upon which people who have an in-depth interest in developmental and educational processes can meet and exchange ideas at the highest pedagogical level: the prerequisite and preparation of a path for successful educational partnerships in life and in work.

Our courses provide every adult with an opportunity to reflect on his own biography in terms of relationships and education and gain new and interesting experience with regard to joyful, holistic learning.

 

In accordance with Montessori’s essential principle of education: “To teach details is to bring confusion – to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge“, seminar participants learn by means of many didactical materials in the following areas:

- “Practical life activities” (PLA)
- “Sensorial training”
- “Mathematics”
- “Language”
-“Cosmic education”
- “Music”
- “Art”
- “Movement”

and, more importantly, that all the areas here are also related to one another.

In a manner which closely resembles playing, experiences and insights are made possible which range from the simplest forms of application all the way to highly complex interconnections of understanding.

 

This allows us as adults and teachers to develop an attitude which serves as a basis for learning that is joyful and truly makes practicing a passion. In order to use this joy and passion to fulfil the basic prerequisite of being an actual role model for children and youth for learning, researching and discovering.

 

 

Claus-Dieter Kaul & Katrein Wilms-Wöltje

 

Biberkor, March 2017