Northside Montessori: Preparing for the future

Future career prospects for today’s children look very different to what they did several years ago. It’s predicted that many future jobs are yet to be created. So with this being the case, how can we prepare students for careers that are currently non-existent? Northside Montessori’s Deputy Principal, Janene Johnson, highlights how Montessori Education has led the way in preparing children for the challenges now and into the future.

We are now well into the 21st century and it is quite incredible how much times have changed since many of us were at primary school. When I was at school my fellow students wanted to be doctors, teachers, firemen, shopkeepers and astronauts. Our world has changed so much now that experts and researchers agree, our children will be in careers that haven’t even been invented yet. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65 per cent of children will be in this situation.

Recently at Northside Montessori’s Primary Science Evening, a parent was overheard saying that we need our children to learn to think outside the square. Currently, traditional education is still grounded in philosophies dating back 100 years or more. A huge focus is placed on language and mathematics. The time throughout the day is highly structured and teacher-driven. There is very little scope for independent work or for students to critically think about subjects and problem solve within a collaborative team. However, these are the features of education that researchers are saying must be introduced if children are to be able to adapt to the rapid and complex changes that are occurring in the world which will become their workplace.

Education must become student-focused, with students learning how to problem-solve, make decisions regarding their learning, work collaboratively with others, design, create and critically think about information and solutions. They must be taught the skills that will allow them to adapt to a constantly changing world. Children must also learn the social skills which will enable them to work creatively with others. There must be a focus on exploring things rather than knowing things. As Professor Glenys Thompson, Deputy Principal at the Australian Science and Mathematics School told ABC’s Four Corners (2016), “They need to know how to learn because we don’t know what it is they’re going to need to learn.”

The world is highly computerised now and will become more so in the next decade and beyond. Technology is taking over tasks that were once done by humans. In his article ‘Are Schools Preparing Our Children for the Workplaces of the Future?’ published by ABC’s Four Corners on 4 July 2016, reporter Geoff Thompson states, “Up to 40 per cent of current Australian jobs could disappear within the next 10 to 15 years as robots and computers continue their unstoppable advance.” The jobs that will be safe from automation are the ones that require a human element.

Researchers are now recommending that schools introduce some element of project-based learning. Several schools in Canada are trialling Genius Hour. Every few days students get an hour where they can explore a project of their choice. “These initiatives ignite a passion for self-directed learning and create opportunities for creativity and problem-solving – skills easily adapted to changing times,” writes Peter Gamwell, co-author of The Wonder Wall: Leading Creative Schools and Organizations in an Age of Complexity (Corwin Press, 2017).

A Montessori classroom embodies all these recommended characteristics. Our children are encouraged to be independent in their learning and work choices. The Directress is there to guide and support, not to dictate while imparting facts and figures. In the words of Maria Montessori, who developed the unique Montessori method of educating children, “Our care of the children should be governed not by the desire to ‘make them learn things’, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within them the light which is called intelligence.”

A Montessori’s classroom culture is built on respect for, and collaboration with, other students and adults. Project based learning is a big part of what we do and the project is done independently by the child. It is not taken home for the parents to complete. Children have to make decisions about work choices and ensure they are acting in a responsible manner. Their research skills are being developed at a very early age. They are constantly challenged to self-reflect and to critically analyse what they are doing. The joy they exhibit during this learning process is wonderful to witness. Their passion for learning is always ignited.

A common question parents often ask is, “How do they go at high school?” The answer is that they are self-assured, confident, flexible, creative thinkers who are armed with excellent research and social skills. A recurring comment from graduates is that their high school teachers say they ask a lot of questions. This is because our graduates have very enquiring minds and want to find answers. They are not afraid to voice opinions and often come up with very creative ways to solve problems. Graduates are always on hand to assist other students and are team players.

A Montessori education provides children with all of the skills they need to move ahead into the unknown. Traditional education systems are starting to recognise that to assist students to navigate their way forward successfully, we have to move away from the traditional industrial revolution model of education.

Maria Montessori may not have been able to see where we would be in the 21st century, but she certainly understood what it meant to develop a child holistically so that they acquired skills which went beyond the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic). Montessori students are independent, self-driven problem-solvers who will be able to adapt and move into the future. The skills that are intrinsic to them as a result of their Montessori education are timeless and will carry them forward to careers we can only imagine.

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