From preschool to high school, the Montessori way.
Many of us have heard of the Montessori method, but what makes this system of education really unique? Founded by paediatrician and psychiatrist Maria Montessori in 1907 (it has definitely stood the test of time!), the Montessori approach emphasises nature, creativity, and hands-on learning with gentle guidance provided by the teachers. Children learn about other cultures, animals and plants in addition to reading, language, and mathematical skills. The goal is to develop a child’s senses, character and practical life skills, as much as it is about nurturing academic ability. From schools that follow the principles of the Montessori philosophy to those with official accreditation, there are plenty of Montessori schools in Hong Kong.
How The Montessori Method Works
The Montessori curriculum focuses on five areas:
- Practical life
- Sensory awareness
- Cultural subjects (geography, zoology, time, history, music, movement, science and art).
All the disciplines tie together in complementary ways.
Teachers or “guides”, as they are called, take their lead from each child, allowing children to learn at their own pace. Montessori programmes encourage a child’s sense of independence and expect a high degree of parent involvement.
Toys and other developmentally appropriate learning materials are laid out in the classroom so a child can see what their choices are and then pick a task — called “work” — according to their interests. Work options include books, puzzle games, art projects, toys that test spatial relations and more. When they’re done, children put their work back on the shelves and move on to something else. The daily schedule allows time for children to play alone and in groups.
Guides work with children as a group and one-on-one, but most of the interaction is among the children. In a Montessori school, teachers aren’t the only instructors. Older kids often help younger ones learn how to master new skills. That’s why each class has mixed ages. Casa classes (a term often used in Montessori education, otherwise known as Casa Dei Bambini, pre-school or children’s house classes) are for those aged 3 to 6 years.
The Key Montessori Principles
Other terms you may hear in a Montessori environment are:
- Concrete to abstract: A logical way to understand more abstract ideas by first using concrete examples (for example, using beads grouped in 10s, 100s, etc. to follow certain mathematical concepts)
- Control of error: While using Montessori materials or toys, a child can get instant feedback. This helps them recognise, correct, and learn from mistakes, even without help from an adult
- Freedom within limits: This is a way to give kids the opportunity to choose their own work but ensuring that their activity is respectful of others and their environment
- Grace and courtesy: Children learn social skills that they will use throughout their lives, from requesting help, interrupting a conversation politely and also greeting people warmly
There are plenty of ways that you can create a Montessori environment at home. Because one of the key principles of the Montessori method is the “absorbent mind”, i.e., the period from birth to six years being a time of intense mental activity, you can even begin with how you design your nursery!
Montessori Schools In Hong Kong
Discovery Montessori Schools (DMS and DMA)
Since 2010, Discovery Montessori schools have been a popular choice for families after a multi-cultural, inquiry-based, child-centred education. It has three beautiful campuses. Two DMS Preschools (DMS in Central and Discovery Bay) offer an International Montessori Education to children aged 1 to 6 years. Discovery Montessori Academy (DMA) is a primary school in Discovery Bay that offers an International Curriculum that combines the IB PYP Programme and Montessori Elementary Education to children aged 6 to 12 years.
At DMS, teachers and parents work together to help children develop to their fullest potential. This nurturing atmosphere, coupled with the Montessori method and bilingual learning, creates a dynamic environment where children love to learn at their own pace. At DMA, elementary students continue working on their individual lesson plans, as well as socialising with and mentoring younger classmates. As little teachers in the classroom, they take pride and build leadership on top of their consolidated knowledge.
DMA, Block 1, Discovery Bay North, Hong Kong, 2812 9668
DMS, Unit 101, 1/F, Discovery Bay North, Hong Kong, 2987 1201
Woodland Group of Pre-Schools
With nine schools across eight locations on Hong Kong Island, the Woodland Group of Preschools has been offering the Hong Kong community a choice of traditional and Montessori teaching methods since 1978. Two of these schools – Woodland Montessori Academy in Mid-Levels and Repulse Bay Montessori – offer Montessori teaching methods that are fully approved by the Montessori Evaluation & Accreditation Board. The schools are the only group of pre-schools to be Montessori-accredited in the Greater China region.
International Montessori School (IMS)
Established in 2002, the International Montessori School (IMS) supports students from toddler to elementary years through their authentic Montessori dual-language curriculum. It has four campuses on Hong Kong Island (catering to different ages) at Stanley, South Horizons, Mid-Levels and Aldrich Bay. As the only accredited elementary Montessori school in greater China, IMS provides an inclusive education where the individual potential of each child is valued and nurtured. Each class has two teachers, at least one of whom is Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)-trained and the other a native Mandarin speaker.
The development of executive functions can help your little ones develop into proficient and well-rounded adults. These include the ability to concentrate, a love of work, self-discipline and positive social behaviour. This a key area of focus at IMS.
Guidepost Montessori prides itself on dependability. It offers late pick-up hours and tries to minimise school closures at its Chai Wan and Kennedy Town campuses. There is also a virtual school option, prompted by the changing COVID-19 situation around the world.
Both schools provide home pods and “children’s house” programmes. The home pod is where a Montessori-trained guide can come to your home to teach small groups. The children’s house is a mixed classroom with children aged 3 to 6 years. Their approach to teaching reading breaks down language learning into clear component skills so that children can grow confident with each step before moving on to the next. The Kennedy Town school also has a toddler programme (for 2 to 3-year-olds), helping toddlers gain independence and important developmental skills.
Sai Kung Montessori
Sai Kung Montessori (SKM) is located in beautiful Sai Kung Town. Surrounded by nature and wildlife, the school provides a bilingual Casa Dei Bambini programme for children aged 2.5 to 6 years. SKM’s learning environment extends beyond the classroom into the natural world and the surrounding community. It hopes to foster a true sense of interconnectedness and global citizenship within its students. The school is owned and operated by an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)-accredited teacher and strictly adheres to the Montessori pedagogy.
Island Children’s Montessori International Nursery and Kindergarten
Island Children’s Montessori, founded in 2010 has four campuses on Hong Kong Island. It offers Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) recognised programmes for children aged 18 months to six years, as well as playgroups for toddlers aged 16 months to three years. With a skilled Montessori-trained teaching team, children learn at their own pace and develop social skills, positive work habits, confidence and independence.
Infinity Montessori Academy
Infinity Montessori Academy, located in Kowloon Tong provides trilingual Montessori programmes for children aged 1 to 6 years. It also offers short courses for children aged 6 to 12 months. Affiliated with the Hong Kong Montessori Research and Development Association (HKMRDA), and Infinity Children’s World, the school places a heavy emphasis on educating parents on the Montessori methodology so they can implement similar strategies at home.
Oaktree Montessori Chinese Education
Located in Happy Valley, Oaktree Montessori Chinese Education is a Mandarin-speaking only Montessori school. With its full immersion Mandarin curriculum, it offers Montessori learning for children aged 12 months to six years. Teachers aim at providing tailormade learning plans according to children’s needs and interests. Apart from day-to-day dialogue and vocabulary skills, students at Oaktree can learn to read and write their own stories.
Little Lantau Montessori Kindergarten (LLMK)
Little Lantau Montessori Kindergarten in Mui Wo accepts children from 18 months up to six years. The toddler class runs in the “Forest School”, an outdoor-themed area named and designed by the children themselves. The kindergarten children (K1 and K2) are in a mixed-age classroom (2 years 8 months and up). Using Montessori principles (experiential, child-led and individual learning with teachers as guides, mixed-age classes, use of Montessori-designed spaces, toys, etc.), LLMK follows the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (EYFS).
At LLMK, the community feel of the Montessori approach is apparent. Last year when the school was facing a financial crunch, the support of the students’ families helped in fundraising and saw the school through the crisis. Even today, parents manage the website, social media and marketing functions of the school. The school is proud to be a part of Mui Wo and the wider South Lantau community.
Montessori for Children
Montessori for Children in Hong Kong is part of a group of schools (also in Singapore and Canada) that offers a genuine Montessori education. Operating since 1986, the School offers Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) recognised classes for children aged 2.5 to 6 years old. Students at Montessori for Children remain in the same class throughout their time spent in the school. English is the medium of instruction with Putonghua as an additional language.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 by Ruth Benny, updated in January 2019 with a further update in March 2021 by Sarah Guinon.