Reflecting on 2017 I am struck by how much interest has been shown in education. Acknowledgements abound of the tremendous achievement in getting more children to school, and of the significant investment in early childhood care, together with tabling the importance of the continuum of education in many international fora.
Major international organisations have joined a growing chorus of positive and engaged voices making a case for rethinking the approach to education. Those voices resonate with ours; for they, like us, recognise the importance of a child's start in life. They acknowledge that many more children have access to pre-school than ever before. They recognise, as we most emphatically do, that the outcomes of education need to be measured in human and social terms, not just in academic ones, and that children need to be front and centre in the education process, whether they are babies, toddlers, elementary school pupils, adolescents, or students in higher education. And our Montessori voices can be heard.
We can speak with authority, as we are increasingly provided with the evidence that the Montessori approach can mitigate the effect of low income and disadvantage on children’s education and development.
We can speak from experience.
For more than 100 years, our teachers, with tremendous dedication, and often not great material reward, have provided enabling environments for hundreds of thousands of children; and we now know that a Montessori approach can be, and has been, successfully adapted to disadvantaged communities.
We can speak with confidence, in the knowledge that the demand for Montessori education is growing worldwide; that there is an AMI presence in one form or another, in over 130 countries; and that in the past 7 years, the number of our national affiliates has grown from 20 to 38, across 31 countries.
We can speak from commitment, because children not having access to a quality education flies in the face of Maria Montessori’s commitment to the realisation of child rights.The still pervasive violence of today’s world is at odds with her commitment to a just and peaceful one.
All of us who carry the name Montessori in our qualifications, our organisations or affiliations, have inherited those commitments.
Maria Montessori was by any standards a tremendous agent for social change in her time.
And change is still needed. Today over 250 million children are not in school and many millions more are in schools that are not places where children can learn, including in high-income countries, where 1 in 5 children aged 15 do not reach what is termed baseline competency in reading, math and science. And 1 in 5 live in poverty. And our world is poorer for that.
Our work goes beyond the classrooms. We must be effective advocates for all children helping ensure that all of them have access to a quality education, one which helps build a greater commitment to peace.
2018 should be a year of hope for every child, and I look forward to working with all of you to play our part in making it so.
Philip D. O'Brien
Association Montessori Internationale