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Maria Montessori is as controversial a figure in Education today, as she was a century ago. Heralded as the century’s leading advocate for early childhood education, her research and her discoveries regarding the child, helped change the course of Education. Her motto was “Education as a help to life.”

Maria Montessori was an individual far ahead of her time. She was born on August 31, 1870 in Ancona, Italy and having pursued a scientific education she was the first woman Doctor in Italy.In 1907 she gave up a brilliant medical career when she discovered the potential of normal children. Since then the Montessori Movement has grown steadily throughout the world. Montessori’s concern with Education for peace intensified and she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1944, at the request of the Colombo Head Mistresses Association, Dr. Montessori visited Sri Lanka and inaugurated the First Montessori Teacher Training Course at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena.

The legacy to preserve and continue the Montessori Training in Sri Lanka was entrusted to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Montessori Training Centre at St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo 07 has completed 69 years of Montessori work in Sri Lanka. Ever since then, the method of pre-school Education introduced by Dr. Montessori has become very popular in Sri Lanka.

Maria Montessori was born at Chiaravalle in the Province of Ancona in Italy on August 31, 1870. In 1896 Maria Montessori became the first woman in Italy to take the degree of Doctor of Medicine. She was chosen to represent the women of Italy at a feminist congress held in Berlin where she championed the Cause of the Working women and her portrait appeared in the Press of many countries.

In the year 1900, she attended a similar Congress in London, where she condemned the practice of child labour in the Mines of Sicily.

At that time there was a building society known as the Institutio Romano dei Beni Stabili a well established concern backed by the principal banks in Italy. Most of the parents were away at work during the day. The younger children were left to their own devices creating disorder like ignorant vandals.

It was decided that someone should be paid to look after these Children.
On January 6, 1906 came Dr. Maria Montessori’s mysterious intuition of the immense significance of the enterprise which was about to begin under humble conditions.
She gave the children objects proportionate to their size and noticing their eagerness to do things by themselves, she gave them exact techniques for attending to themselves and to their household tasks. She did not punish them for their rough behaviour but taught them the techniques of good manners. She did not command what they should do, but gave them possibilities to choose their occupation. The only indication she gave was that they should not disturb other children at work.

These children became disciplined and self-confident.
At 4 ½ years they started to write, at 5 years they read all they could find and no one had taught them. Discipline did not have to be imposed from outside. Their violence gave place to care for their environment, not to hurt or offend others. Somehow these children had become integrated personalities. That was the MIRACLE of 1907
Visitors came to observe these phenomenal. The young Doctor left her Medical Career, her Political eminence, her University lectureship and became a Kindergarten Teacher, even less in her study of the Child; she became a pupil of Kindergarten Children.

In a few years the Montessori Movement began to spring up in various countries of Europe and America. Her writings were translated into many Languages.

Dr. Maria Montessori visited Sri Lanka [Ceylon] in 1944 and held the first ever Training Course at the invitation of the Ceylon Teachers Association, at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena Colombo 13. This was attended by over 300 participants which included Principals of Schools, University Lecturers, young Students from Schools, Mothers interested in helping their Children and many Good Shepherd Sisters, who later opened Children’s Houses in the Convents in different parts of the island. In 1944 before Dr. Maria Montessori left Sri Lanka, she handed over her pedagogical legacy to the Rev. Mother Immaculate Conception, then Provincial Superior of the Good Shepherd Sisters.

In all her journeys she was assisted by her son, Mario, who shared her responsibilities. At her death she appointed him as her successor in the task of directing and co-ordinating the work of AMI. This includes the publication of certain researches dealing with the development and care of Children from 0 — 3 years. Her researches led her in two directions, forward towards adolescence and backwards towards the newly born Child.
Maria Montessori’s long and sacrificing labours on behalf of the Child and of humanity ended suddenly on May 6, 1952 in Holland. She was in her eighty first year. She was buried in Holland.

Her most appropriate and we believe the most lasting monument is and always will be the serene and joyful atmosphere which emanates from thousands of happy children in every part of the world.

This is our tribute to Madam Maria Montessori as we celebrate her 149th Birth celebrations!