Let me begin about India in the 1960s. Apart from in the cities, most children in tier 2 towns/cities never went to preschool. They joined a regular school at the age of 5 or 4, depending on the school. Cities had what were known as nurseries where children went to before they joined bigger schools.
In the 1950s, Montessori preschools had started in minuscule numbers in cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata. These were the cities graced by Dr Maria Montessori. She spread word of Montessori and conducted training courses. Soon the rest of population assumed Montessori to be synonymous with pre-school or nursery or kindergarten. Sadly, this myth has stayed strong to this day. We have many parents putting their child into a Montessori school just because they have heard good words about it – and not because they understand the Montessori methods.
On a more positive note, there is increased awareness about Montessori these days. Some people have read about Montessori and have educated themselves as to what it is, some others have heard about it, and some have actually visited Montessori schools and have learnt about the same.
Montessori is a method where the child learns concepts about heavy-light, big-small, long-short, more-less through hands on activity. Many people call this “play”. They feel the children are only playing and wonder when they will learn. The environment (not a classroom) has everything child sized and easily accessible. When they work (not play) with a set of pink-coloured, graded cubes (which look like building blocks), the child learns the following vocabulary – top, down, build, dismantle, tower, cube, big, bigger, biggest, small, smaller, smallest and concepts of heavy and light too. Such is the learning when the child plays with the cubes. That is why we say that the child is “working” with the pink cubes to build the Pink Tower and not “playing”.
When the child can learn so much from one set of learning materials, just imagine the treasure trove of learning that will happen when your child spends 3 to 4 years in the Montessori environment before they join regular school at grade 1!
I invite you to click on the following link and watch a quick video about Montessori from a parent whose children went to Montessori schools.