Educator, scientist and medical doctor Maria Montessori founded the first Montessori community in 1907 in the slums of Rome. From this work with poor, illiterate children, an educational philosophy evolved.
This philosophy aims to place children at the centre of society and to help them become caring, self-motivated and fulfilled individuals who can create a sustainable and peaceful future for humanity.
Dr Montessori believed that when children are in a stimulating, specially prepared environment, their natural curiosity will help them become self-motivated learners. She stressed following the interests of the child with a focus on self-discovery. Education, she believed, is "preparation for life", not merely a search for intellectual skills or preparation for school.
The effectiveness of Montessori teaching methods was demonstrated in a study published in the US journal Science (29 September 2006). It found that Montessori children have improved behavioural and academic skills compared with a control group from the mainstream system. The authors concluded that "when strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools".
Montessori is the single largest educational "pedagogy", or teaching practice, in the world: more than 22,000 schools in more than 100 countries on six continents.
The celebration in 2007 of the Montessori philosophy validates its continuing relevance for future generations.